It has been a long and even controversial free agency period for Matt DiBenedetto, but he has found a new home in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. On Thursday, Rackley WAR announced DiBenedetto will drive the #25 Chevrolet Silverado for the full 2022 season.
“We are honored to have Matt DiBenedetto join Rackley WAR full-time for the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season driving the #25 Chevrolet,” said team co-owner Curtis Sutton. “We feel that by teaming Matt up with experienced crew chief Chad Kendrick, we will be competing for multiple wins and be competitive at all race tracks. I truly believe that the NASCAR Truck Series is the most exciting, and I am looking forward to getting the season started.”
DiBenedetto spent the last seven years racing full-time in the Cup Series, including the last two with Wood Brothers Racing. After making the playoffs in 2020, he placed eighteenth in points with nine top tens, three top fives, and a best finish of fourth at Kansas in the spring. Prior to the 2021 season, WBR announced then-reigning Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric would replace DiBenedetto in the #21 (Harrison Burton would ultimately fill the seat as Cindric moves to ally Team Penske). Nevertheless, the announcement left DiBenedetto out of a ride.
The 30-year-old was a fan favourite during his early career as he hung around in start-and-park and underpowered Cup and Xfinity Series rides before breaking through with a sixth-place finish in the 2016 spring Bristol race for perennial backmarker BK Racing. His ascension from such teams before finally reaching the legendary WBR #21 saw moments such as driving a Reddit-sponsored car in the 2017 All-Star Race and frequenting the website, nearly winning the 2019 Bristol Night Race days after his employer Leavine Family Racing announced his departure at season’s end, and winning the 2021 All-Star fan vote.
However, DiBenedetto’s final year with WBR was also marred by controversy, which some fans suggested may have impacted or been a byproduct of his impending free agency. In October, he commented that he hoped to join a team that would allow him to freely comment on religion and politics, prompting many to point out his views are far from controversial in the industry. A month later, he drew backlash when he tweeted about Kyle Busch’s usage of an ableist slur that resulted in Busch attending sensitivity training, which DiBenedetto defended as a joke before briefly deactivating his account and accusing Twitter users of oversensitivity via Instagram video. His final race for WBR at Phoenix saw him interact with Benny Johnson of conservative organisation Turning Point USA, which culminated in him uttering the right-wing phrase “Let’s Go Brandon”, a euphemism to criticise United States President Joe Biden that spawned from the Talladega Xfinity race (race winner Brandon Brown, the ‘Brandon’ in question, has since been in rocky waters due to matters relating to the phrase) and was condemned by NASCAR president Steve Phelps. DiBenedetto eventually apologised for the gesture.
Regardless of whether his image may have been affected by such incidents, DiBenedetto has landed back on his feet, even in a series in which he had no prior race experience. In 2016, his lone seat time in a truck came when he filled in for John Wes Townley during practice for the Truck race at New Hampshire; he was seventh quickest in the first practice and twelfth in the last. Jumping from NASCAR’s top level to the third and lowest national tier might be considered a significant drop, but it is not uncommon: many veterans during the Trucks’ infancy also came to the series in such a manner, while reigning regular season champion John Hunter Nemechek had spent 2020 competing for Cup Rookie of the Year honours.
“I can honestly say that, at this time in my career, I am truly excited,” commented DiBenedetto. “I feel like I’m going back to my roots in a lot of ways. I love the feeling you immediately get when you talk to Curtis, Willie (Allen), Chad; all the guys around this organisation. They are all hardcore racers and everyone is extremely dedicated. This opportunity is a blessing to me and I’m really excited to do my part in taking this team to the next level.”
Rackley WAR, run by Allen (the 2007 Truck Rookie of the Year) and Sutton (Rackley Roofing head), débuted in 2021. Timothy Peters ran much of the team’s maiden season before his departure, and Josh Berry filled in much of the remaining dates alongside William Byron and Allen. Berry scored Rackley WAR’s first top ten when he finished tenth at Texas.
The team has an alliance with GMS Racing.
“We have a lot of great folks around this race shop and in a lot of other places,” said Allen. “This will be our second year having an alliance with GMS Racing and we’re really appreciative of all they do for us. We will continue our manufacturer alliance with GM and Chevrolet, and we’re super-thankful for the resources they make available to us. This series is for sure the most competitive out there right now, and we are really fortunate to have excellent partners. We anticipate a big year as we look forward to our first win.”