After just one year, Matt DiBenedetto will not return to Leavine Family Racing following the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. On Thursday morning, he announced the news via Twitter.
“I got the devastating news that I will not be able to return to Leavine Family Racing next season,” he wrote. “Nonetheless, I can’t express how thankful I am for [owners] Bob (Leavine), Sharon (Leavine), Matt DiLiberto, and everyone at LFR and Toyota for allowing me to do exactly what I set out to do, which was showcase my talent. It has been exiting for us as a team to get top-5s, top-10s, and lead the most laps in the Daytona 500.
“I have every intention of driving my heart out the rest of the season to not only get more of these kinds of finishes, but to get them their first win. I would love to do that for them.”
DiBenedetto moved to LFR and the Toyota camp after spending two seasons with Go Fas Racing, returning to the manufacturer he began his Cup career with in 2015 as a BK Racing driver. 2019 is LFR’s first season with Toyota after racing with Chevrolet from 2015 to 2018. With Joe Gibbs Racing support, the two set highs in top-five finishes (two) and top tens (four), including leading a race-high 49 laps in the Daytona 500 and a best finish of fourth at Sonoma Raceway.
He is currently twenty-third in points, his highest championship position of his career to date. In 163 career Cup races, the California native has eight top tens.
Although LFR has not announced his successor, signs point to JGR Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell as the heir apparent to the ride. Now in his second full-time Xfinity season, Bell is currently second in the standings with five wins, and he and DiBenedetto will partner as team-mates for the Road America race in late August. DiBenedetto had started his NASCAR national series career in 2009 with JGR, racing part-time for the team’s Xfinity (then Nationwide Series) programme until 2010.
“Although this is a difficult time for me, nothing is going to stop me from winning in the NASCAR Cup Series,” DiBenedetto added. “I’m hopeful there is a team out there that will give me the chance to continue my dream and allow me to win for them.”
The news adds to a wave of NASCAR offseason ride changes. On Wednesday, Front Row Motorsports‘ David Ragan announced his retirement from full-time racing, leaving FRM’s #38 Ford Mustang open for 2020.