CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Matt DiBenedetto has found his next home in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, while Leavine Family Racing will fly a new manufacturer flag next season.
After months of speculation, team owner Bob Leavine finally silenced the rumor mill on Wednesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame by confirming that his organization will switch from Chevrolet to Toyota, beginning with Daytona Speedweeks in February, and hiring DiBenedetto to drive the No. 95 full time.
Both moves come with the goal of strengthening the team and elevating it to be able to compete among the top squadrons at NASCAR’s highest levels.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Matt (DiBenedetto) to our organization,” said Leavine. “We feel that he’s going to be a great addition to the team with his great personality and experience on track within the series.
“It’s a tremendous feeling to know that we’re also able to announce our alignment with JGR and TRD for next season as well,” Leavine added. “Obviously, they’re both first-class organizations and proven winners, so for us to be able to align with them is a huge step for our organization. I’m excited as we continue to work ahead for 2019, thanks to getting Matt as our driver and Toyota as our manufacturer.”
DiBenedetto is a four-year veteran of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, having raced full time with Go Fas Racing in each of the last two seasons. He has four top-10 finishes in 134 career starts, including one this season in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona Int’l Speedway in July.
The 27-year-old native of Grass Valley, Calif., was persistent in his pursuit of Leavine’s No. 95 entry until finally getting the nod to pilot the car starting next season.
“I bet on myself, and the prospect of not having … anything really, was a bit scary, but I never second-guessed my decision,” DiBenedetto told SPEED SPORT on Wednesday. “Now that this day is here, I can only begin to explain how fortunate I am to be joining LFR.
“No words can describe my gratitude to everyone who believes in me. I’ve had to fight so hard, the old school way, to get here and that will always make me appreciate this amazing opportunity,” he continued. “When I got the phone call from Bob (Leavine) and Jeremy (Lange, LFR general manager), I was speechless. My wife and I both had tears of joy and it was a very emotional moment that we will always cherish.
“I look forward to making everyone proud next year, working day and night with my team to show people what we are made of.”
Wednesday’s announcement also marks a reunion with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing – who will be a technical partner in LFR’s alignment with Toyota – for DiBenedetto.
DiBenedetto began his NASCAR career with JGR in 2009, driving limited schedules in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. He earned two top-10 finishes in seven Xfinity starts for JGR and scored two K&N East victories for the team, as well.
“The thought of being reunited with Toyota and the folks at TRD is just unbelievable for me and my family,” noted DiBenedetto. “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.”
Leavine Family Racing’s partnership with Toyota Motor North America will begin with the 2019 Daytona 500 and will include support from Toyota Racing Development, who will build the team’s engines and provide technology, data and technical assistance.
The team will also receive chassis from Joe Gibbs Racing as part of their technical alliance.
“Toyota welcomes LFR to our racing family and we look forward to seeing the No. 95 Camry on track in the 2019 MENCS season,” said Laura Pierce, General Manager for Motorsports, TMNA. “They are a talented and well-run organization with the commitment to improve their competitiveness in this sport. The addition of a driver like Matt DiBenedetto and his enthusiasm and dedication to excelling on the race track will certainly make a positive impact on the team.”