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Matt DiBenedetto Elated With Go Fas Racing

Matt DiBenedetto looks forward to the on track battles with Go Fast Racing. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ellis)

Matt DiBenedetto looks forward to the on track battles with Go Fas Racing. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ellis)

By and large, 25-year-old Matt DiBenedetto of Grass Valley, CA and the Go Fas Racing team are a match made in heaven.  In the same way, it’s about finding the right combination to build on long term success.

Still, DiBenedetto realizes that his No. 32 team encountered bad luck. All things considered, he carries confidence with his cars and crew. Moreover, crew chief Gene Nead and car owner Archie St. Hilarie believe in their young driver.

For this reason, DiBenedetto relishes his opportunities in the car and at the track with racing fans.  Arguably, he’s one of the most accessible drivers in the garage.  More often than not, the Californian signs autographs and interacts with race fans at each venue.

Presently, his focus is on building momentum for the No. 32 team.  Ultimately, he realizes that it takes a total team effort to succeed in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing.  By and large, this is a young racer who carries himself professionally and respectfully on and off the track.

Last weekend, I caught up with DiBenedetto prior to Cup qualifying at Michigan International Speedway. Humorous, intelligent, and candid, it’s time to talk racing with this young racer here on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson :  It’s your first season with the No. 32 team. At this point, you’ve had good runs with some bad luck in some races.  First, how encouraged are you with the performance of your team as we head into the summer stretch?

Matt DiBenedetto :  As far as the performances go, I am way beyond thrilled.  I’m proud of my guys because we’ve taken a team and made huge strides and gotten some good people.  Performance wise, we’ve been great.  Luck wise, we’ve been bad lately.  (laughs) That’s just kind of the little stuff that’s out of my control and there are things that we will try to get worked out.

Some of it has been out of our control completely.  We’ll work on getting the little bugs worked out of it.  We’ve had some little growing pains and we’ve made some big strides. That’s always going to be a part of it and going to happen.

We’re coming together as a team and performing very well.  We’re running around teams that run on much higher budgets than us so that’s good.  Those are great goals for us and we do that weekly.  We run around people that spend a lot more than we do.  We make a lot out of what we have and that’s something to be proud of for a smaller team like we have.

RT :  By the same token, this has to be one of your best opportunities since you’ve climbed up the NASCAR ranks. At any rate, having raced in Xfinity and Cup over the years, what’s been some of the great intangibles that Go Fas Racing has brought to the table with your racing career?

DiBenedetto searches for the perfect racing line at Michigan. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ellis)

DiBenedetto searches for the perfect racing line at Michigan. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ellis)

MD :  This was the best opportunity for me like, you said, and our guys to come to the team and try and improve it by 10 spots a week.  When we have done that, we run a lot better.  This is a great opportunity for us.

As far as this being my third year in Cup, there’s a lot that I’m now able to finetune on my skills and finetune on putting the race together and how to outrace the people that we race.  We’ve done a really good job with that and we’ve put ourselves in great positions to get good finishes if some of these little things didn’t happen.

It happens.  I work on my pit road stuff hard this year.  I work on restarts and every way to put ourselves in position to stay on the lead lap and have good finishes.  That’s made a big difference.

RT :  Speaking of making a big difference, NASCAR introduced the new stages in a race and points format that a majority of your peers like.  In other words, it’s added a much-needed wrinkle to the series.  From your perspective, has it enhanced the on-track action with rolling the dice more or could more be done to expand upon the concept?

Teamwork makes the dream work. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ellis)

Teamwork makes the dream work. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ellis)

MD :  I really like it and I think that they did a really good job with it.  I think they thought through a lot of things to make sure that there wouldn’t be any crazy surprises.  There really haven’t been.  It’s gone smoothly.  The action’s been good as has the racing.  The strategy is interesting. It breaks up the race a little more.

It’s cool and it’s good even hearing fans that watch the races say that they tune in more or longer because they’re like, “This stage ends in 30 laps.  Might as well hang around and watch the rest of the stage before I do something or take a little break.”  It’s good to keep the viewers interested and watching a little longer.

RT :  Of course, there was an incident Danica Patrick and a race fan at Pocono.  For this reason, two wrongs don’t make a right. Therefore, is this an issue where drivers should sign autographs to help with NASCAR’s outreach with fans or is there a better system that Cup racers could have like their Xfinity and Truck counterparts?

MD :  Yea, I would be totally open to an autograph session.  I would have to disagree with the statement that it’s not our job to sign autographs.  It is in a sense out of just straight respect.  I don’t know how people could turn down autographs or treat a fan with any sort of disrespect.  That’s what our sport is built on – the fans.  To me, they come first.

I understand that drivers will get busy and we may not have time or every second to stop and sign autographs when we’re running out to our cars during qualifying.  Even if you don’t have time, and I’ve been running a little behind before, I’ll stop and high fans while I’m walking.  You can tell them, “Thank you” or whatever.  There’s a right way to do it to the best of our abilities.  You always give the fans the most time and attention that you can.

RT :   Ultimately, the fans buy your merchandise and also travel to each track.  Furthermore, it’s about paying it forward because that positive experience could mean another race fan coming to the track.


Whether it's with fans or press, this young driver relishes his opportunity in NASCAR. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ellis)

Whether it’s with fans or press, this young driver relishes his opportunity in NASCAR. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ellis)

MD :  Yep, exactly.  That’s what it’s all about.  I try and do as good of a job as I can with that in flat out being respectful.  I was raised differently in that I respect anybody as human beings in general.

RT :  Exactly.  Let’s go off a bit track for the moment.  Let’s say it’s a downtime or a off weekend for you at your house.  You’re worn out.  What are your favorite go-to shows or guilty pleasure shows?

MD :  (chuckles)  Well, my PR person/friend Ryan (Ellis) knows what I’m about to say.  One of my favorite TV shows that my wife and I will watch is Family Guy.  My guilty pleasure TV show is definitely The Bachelor!  (laughter) It’s a bad one.  I’m scared to admit that to people but I try to answer honestly.

RT :  I take it that she got into the season that Arie Luyendyk Jr was on?

MD :  You know, the worst part is that everyone’s like, “Does your wife make you watch that?  Is that how you got into it?”  It’s the opposite because I watch it and make my wife watch it.  It’s even worse to admit that.

RT :  At least you’re honest about that with the fans!  Honesty is the best policy.  In any case, what are some things that you wish could bring from your street car to the No. 32 car that’d make life more comfortable during the race weekend?

MD :  I think I’d actually do it the opposite way.  I would try to incorporate some racecar into my street cars.  Ironically, we have on our Ford ironically (at Michigan).  That’s a little weird and we have to tread carefully with that.  I drive an F-150 to tow my camping vehicle.

Getting back to your question, I would try to bring a little racecar into my street car.  I own a Corvette.  It’s a Z06 2008 model.  It’s a heads cam car.  It has a big nasty cam and headers.  Either way, it sounds like a racecar and drives like a racecar.  I would do it the opposite and try to bring some racecar into my street car.  I like to be everything obnoxiously loud and driving a racecar down the road.

RT :  You can never get enough of that speed from the racetrack, eh?

MD :  Never!  Nope, can’t ever have enough.

RT :  Moreover, there’s not enough wide open roads here in Michigan or North Carolina.

DiBenedetto leads Kurt Busch around MIS. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ellis)

DiBenedetto leads Kurt Busch around MIS. (Photo Credit: Ryan Ellis)

MD :  (laughs) I drive what feels like a racecar down the road but it’s a little tough cause you can’t get on it too much.  You’re going over the speed limit way too quick.  There’s a half-mile event that I went to not long ago.  It was fun to be able to open it up and look at some cool cars and take my Vette out there.  Racing’s my life and I can’t get enough of it!

RT :  Finally, as qualifying’s pretty much coming up here in a bit, hypothetically, if you were a driver/team owner, and yes, you can include Ryan as an answer with this, which drivers would you pick as your teammate because you like them, PR people included, past or present, would want towards the end of your career, and which would you choose even if they annoyed you?

MD :  I’d probably pick my “PR girl” Ryan Ellis as my teammate so he can go slow and make me look good. (laughter) That’s one good teammate.

I’d pick Brad Keselowski because he’s very good.  He’s a good guy and I respect the way he treats people.  Another one I’d want is AJ Allmendinger.  I get along with him very well.  He’s a fun guy and he can help me with the road courses so that’s another help there.  Kyle Larson would be a good one because I grew up racing with Kyle and I’ve known him since he was five or six years old.

That would cover it.  If I could go back in time, I’d choose Richard Petty. (snickers)

RT :  That’d be pretty cool.  Obviously, Richard Petty from the 1967 season, not today, eh?

MD :  (laughs) Yea, that would be back in the day for sure.

RT :  If you could ask Brad Keselowski any question, what would it be, if you were me?

MD :  Is it a driver’s job to sign autographs?

Author’s Notes : Special thanks to Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Ellis, and the kind folks at Go Fas Racing for this opportunity last weekend at Michigan International Speedway!  In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Matt and the No. 32 team, “Follow” them on Twitter and “Like” their Facebook pages now!

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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