Matt DiBenedetto is not a household name in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. You won’t see him vying for race wins or leading the points standings. Even top-twenty finishes are rare to come by. As a small Cup Series team, Go Fas Racing does not have much expectation to be competing with the likes of Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing, and Joe Gibbs Racing.
Despite not being a top-flight organization, when it comes to marketing the team, DiBenedetto and the family-owned GFR have used more “unorthodox” methods than their competitors. In a traditional partnership, a company would opt to align with major teams such as JGR and HMS, often signing on for multi-race deals that help sponsors become synonymous with a certain driver, such as FedEx with Denny Hamlin and Lowe’s with Jimmie Johnson. GFR and DiBenedetto do not have that luxury, which has prompted them to try new approaches to gaining sponsorship.
In the week leading up to the TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway in early March, GFR’s #32 Ford was left without a sponsor. DiBenedetto took to social media to campaign to seek support.
“We hate doing this, but we are UNSPONSORED as of right now for [ISM Raceway] this weekend!”DiBenedetto tweeted. “If you or anyone you know has the ability to help us connect with a business interested in coming on board this weekend please contact the [Go Fas Racing] page ASAP!”
His request was answered by two of his fellow drivers and a NASCAR Hall of Famer: Hamlin and eventual race winner Kevin Harvick pledged $5,000 each to place the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown and KHI Management on DiBenedetto’s car, respectively, while Darrell Waltrip donated the same amount as he added the Waltrip Brothers Golf Charity Championship to the car. Zynga Poker eventually came onboard as the team’s primary sponsor, while Enlisted Nine Fight Company and Pit Stops for Hope joined on as associate sponsors.
DiBenedetto eventually posted: “We got to see the good heartwarming side of social media today…that’s for sure!”
He finished twenty-fifth in the race. Inspired by the effort, GFR later announced the launch of #TeamBurrito, a program that will allow fans to get involved in sponsoring the #32.
“For decades, racing sponsorships at the [Cup Series] level have primarily been massive corporations and large business-to-business partnerships,” the team stated in a press release. “While many of these companies appealed at a customer level to the blue-collar NASCAR fan, it was far-fetched for this fan to believe he or she might be able to have their company represented on a racecar at the top level of motorsport.”
To participate in #TeamBurrito, fans with ties to interested businesses can contact GFR on social media or through an online form to introduce the two parties to one another. Once the gap between the business and the team is bridged and the former becomes a sponsor, the responsible fan is rewarded with hot passes and other perks to races of their choosing. Said benefits also include a meet-and-greet with DiBenedetto and a VIP race experience.
In recent years, racing has proved to be an expensive sport as sponsorship and funding have become more crucial to keep operations afloat. Earlier in the week, court documents concerning BK Racing, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy prior to the start of the 2018 season, revealed the team had lost $30 million by competing in the Cup Series from 2014 to 2016. At the TicketGuardian 500, BK’s Gray Gaulding finished thirty-fourth and received $82,000 in prize money. However, it was not enough to cover the team’s expenses that weekend (which included engine leasing, salaries, air fare, maintaining the payroll, and for tires), which totaled $84,525.
Despite not being a front-running driver, DiBenedetto has been a popular face both in the garage and online. In 2016, fans on the /r/NASCAR subreddit rallied together to vote him into the All-Star Race after he caught their attention at the spring Bristol Motor Speedway event in which he finished sixth in a BK Racing car. This was followed by a second campaign for the 2017 event, for which GFR ran a Reddit-based paint scheme out of appreciation. Although he came up short in the voting each time, he has remained a regular on the subreddit.
The team intends to launch #TeamBurrito starting with the April 8 race at Texas Motor Speedway, followed by later events at Richmond Raceway and Pocono Raceway.