Matt DiBenedetto to Leavine, team switching to Toyota

by Justin Nguyen

Matt DiBenedetto will be back in a Toyota for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. On Tuesday, Adam Stern tweeted the Grass Valley, California native will be joining Leavine Family Racing in 2019; although the team currently fields a Chevrolet, it will move to Toyota. The news was officially confirmed in a press conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

In September, DiBenedetto stated he would be departing Go Fas Racing after driving the team’s #32 since 2017. In 66 races with GFR, he has three top tens and a best finish of seventh in the 2018 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. After 30 races in 2018, he currently sits thirtieth in points.

It is DiBenedetto’s second ride in a Toyota in the Cup Series. From 2015 to 2016, he drove the #83 Toyota for BK Racing, during which he scored his career-best finish of sixth at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016. DiBenedetto was also a former Joe Gibbs Racing development driver at the turn of the decade, running a limited schedule for the team in what is now known as the Xfinity Series from 2009 to 2010. In seven starts with JGR, he had two top tens and a best finish of ninth at Iowa Speedway.

When the team was formed in 2011, LFR ran Fords until 2015, when it moved to Chevrolet. In accordance with the switch to Toyota, LFR will form a partnership with JGR, which will be losing ally Furniture Row Racing following its shutdown at the end of the 2018 season.

“I can only begin to explain how fortunate I am to be joining LFR,” DiBenedetto stated. “The thought of being reunited with Toyota and the folks at TRD is just unbelievable for me and my family.  This is the biggest opportunity of my life and it’s a dream come true to be a part of a team that continues to elevate their program at the highest level of NASCAR.”

LFR currently fields the #95 for Kasey Kahne in his first and only season with the team. After stating his intention to retire after 2018, his season was cut short on Tuesday when he announced he was not medically cleared to return for the final five races of the seasonRegan Smith has filled in for Kahne over the past five races, recording three top-twenty finishes in five races, including a twelfth-place run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Smith will remain in the #95 for the remainder of the 2018 season.

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