MATT DIBENEDETTO SURVIVES AND SURPRISES AT CONCORD by Amy Hayes
UARA-STARS Rookie Claims Victory at Concord Motorsport Park
Matt DiBenedetto is well on his way to winning Rookie of the Year in the UARA-STARS series. (51 Photos)
First things first, in order to survive until the end, the drivers had to make the race. Yet again a stout field showed up with 42 cars taking time for the feature. The previous event’s winner Dennis Queen was one of the drivers who did not survive qualifying and found himself heading home early.
For DiBenedetto, It was a relatively easy task for him to survive qualifying and the mayhem that was the feature event. He earned his first career pole at the tricky tri-oval track in only his second Late Model Stock start. Then he backed it up to win the feature race. Pretty Impressive for someone who is only 15 years old.
“I owe it all to my crew chief Bill Lett.,” said DiBenedetto. “This is by far my biggest win. This is the most exciting thing that I have ever done in my career and I still can’t believe it.
“I knew from the beginning that our car was really good after we qualified on the pole. But my car was kind of loose, it was loose the whole race. I knew if I just saved my tires and didn’t race too hard that I would be fine by the end of the race. That is what I did. I just stayed the same distance away from second place car. I would get away a little bit and then just stay right there so I wouldn’t burn off my tires.”
The first 51 laps of the race were relatively calm. The leaders followed one another nose to tail until lap 21 when Roger Lee Newton made his move to get by DiBenedetto after the two caught some lapped traffic. Newton claimed the race lead, which he would only hold onto for a short while.
However, those 51 laps were a little deceiving as to how the evening’s race would continue. That old saying that cautions breed cautions proved to be true when it came to the UARA-STARS on Saturday night.
Survivor is not just the name of a hit show on primetime television. It was the name of the game at the UARA-STARS event at Concord Motorsport Park (NC) on Saturday, March 31st. And the ultimate survivor was a surprise in dark horse rookie 15-year-old Matt DiBenedetto
And it all started on lap 52 when two cars made contact with each other ,bringing out the first caution. Once the yellow fever was underway, the race turned from a game of a strategy into a game of survival as the race would average one caution every ten laps for the remainder of the event. There were a total of nine cautions for the 150-lap feature.
Newton was one of the victims who fell to a caution on lap 62 when he fell off the pace and stopped on the track bringing out the yellow flag. He was held a lap for intentionally bringing out the yellow, which set him another lap down and made him ineligible for the lucky dog pass. His falling out of contention allowed DiBenedetto to easily reclaim the top spot and stay out of harms way all the way to the finish.
In the end, there were three finalists in this game of survivor. The three drivers who finished up front were the surprises of the evening, not because of what they did do, but because of what they didn’t do. They stayed clean throughout the race quietly moving their way up front and avoided all the incidents that the majority of the field were in.
And by majority, that means that the cars from the seventh spot back were all involved in some type of incident out on the track.
Matt DiBenedetto, Ross Furr and BJ Mackey were the drivers who were able to take the top-three spots in addition to damage free cars home at the end of the night. Former UARA-STARS winner Kevin Leicht, Mark Setzer, and Clay Greenfield rounded out the top-six.
DiBenedetto was a fan of the yellow fever, as late in the race the cautions fell right into his young and waiting hands.
“My car was definitely better on the short runs,” added DiBenedetto. “With my car being loose I could let me tires cool down on the cautions. When we would get going the car would be really fast and the nit would fall off a little bit. I just kind of played my strategy as much as I could. I really had no expectations of doing this at all.”
For Furr, second was especially important because it was his home track, and the sponsor of the event Fairborn Equipment was also the sponsor on his No. 25 car. But no driver wants to settle for second.
“We had a good car,” said Furr. “DiBenedetto was strong but we were better on the long run. Man, I wanted to win that thing bad here at home. All in all we had a good weekend. Coming from where we were at Hickory with not making the race, and then coming here and starting in the top-10 and keeping all the fenders on, to finish second is pretty awesome.”
“On the long runs I was definitely getting up to DiBenedetto. I was running him down. I could get him after five or six [laps] , but whenever those cautions came out they just killed us. It took me a few laps to really come in. If I could have had ten good green flag laps there at the end I think that I could have gotten to him. I don’t know if I could have gotten around him, but I could have gotten to him.”
But unfortunately for Furr, he will have to wait until the UARA-Stars next trip to Concord to find out if he can get around DiBenedetto.
1. 41 Matt DiBenedetto
2. 25 Ross Furr
3. 12M BJ Macky
4. 32 Kevin Leicht
5. 27 Mark Setzer
6. 84 Clay Greenfield
7. 77 Tommy Lemons Jr
8. 16 Daniel Pope II
9. 05 Pynne Pickles
10. 06 Davin Scites
11. 23 Matt Leicht
12. 28 Mikey Kile
13. 44 Robert Ferguson
14. 61 KC Cunningham
15. 74 Lance Gatlin
16. 33 Roger Newton
17. 57 Zeke Shell
18. 1 Jeffrey Earnhardt
19. 92 Jake Crum
20. 21 Lucas Ransone
21. 77M Clint Mills
22. 91 John Gottsacker
23. 55 Alex Yontz
24. 6 Jeff Melton
25. 7 Brandon Weber
26. 03B Shane Bradford
27. 99L Brandon Dean
28. 53 Lee Tissot
Roger Lee Newton was fast at the beginning of the race but misfortune found it's way to the 33.