It took a lot of last lap gumption on the Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway high banks and an official “race finish review” afterward, but longtime competitor Matt DiBenedetto earned his first NASCAR national series race victory in Saturday‘s Chevy Silverado 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
Because the race ended under caution, NASCAR officials reviewed video to determine who was leading when an accident froze the field coming to the checkered flag. Ultimately, it marked the first and only lap the former NASCAR Cup Series driver DiBenedetto had ever led in the truck series — and it delivered his first trophy.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship competitor Ben Rhodes was scored runner-up with young rookie — and Alabama native — Bret Holmes in third place.
It marked the fifth consecutive Talladega truck race that the winner led only the last lap.
“Oh man, it‘s been such a long time coming,” said the 31-year old Californian DiBenedetto, who recently renewed his contract with the No. 25 Rackley WAR Chevrolet team. “I‘m so thankful.
“It just seems so surreal,” DiBenedetto added before offering good wishes to fellow driver Jordan Anderson, who was transported to the hospital after an accident on Lap 19.
“I think my heart rate was higher waiting for that than [taking] the white flag.”
It was a typically competitive afternoon at Talladega — with 11 leaders and 25 lead changes in the 95-lap race — only to end with a dramatic push for the checkered flag in a green-white-checkered overtime finish.
The 25-year old Holmes — the 2020 ARCA Menards Series champion – led the white flag lap and thought he was ahead when the final yellow and checkered flags waved and pulled up to the trophy stand, where DiBenedetto later pulled alongside.
“It definitely showed we deserve to be here,” Holmes said. “Tough to lose that one for sure.”
Ryan Preece and Playoff driver Christian Eckes rounded out the Top-5. Hailie Deegan — the only full-time woman competitor in the series – earned a career best sixth-place finish. Chase Purdy, Colby Howard, Parker Kligerman and Tyler Ankrum rounded out the Top-10.
Anderson, who emerged from a fiery single-truck crash on Lap 19, was transported to a local hospital where he was reported awake and alert.
As for the Playoffs, only two driver championship contenders — Rhodes and Eckes – finished among the Top-10. With Ty Majeski‘s win at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sept. 15, he is the only driver to have already secured a position in the Championship 4.
Chandler Smith was 14th , Zane Smith, 17th and Stewart Friesen was 20th. Majeski finished 23rd and polesitter John Hunter Nemechek — who won Stage 1 — was 24th.
The Playoff standings continue to be very tight beyond Majeski. Chandler Smith holds a 12-point edge on Zane Smith with reigning series champion Ben Rhodes in that important fourth position, 27 points behind Chandler Smith.
Eckes and Friesen are both three points behind Rhodes. Nemechek is five points from the cutoff line and Grant Enfinger, who was involved in an accident on Saturday afternoon is now 26 points behind Rhodes.
While not running the season title this season, DiBenedetto will leave Talladega with a full heart and lots of hope for next year thanks to securing this memorable first victory.
“We‘ve come so close so many times at this track, I‘ve felt like Talladega — more than Bristol or any of those places — owes me one so pretty sweet,” DiBenedetto said adding, “The wait was well worth it.”
The final Playoff race to decide which four drivers advance to the series Championship will be Oct. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The trucks last raced at the South Florida track in June, 2020 where Kyle Busch earned his third series win at the track.
— NASCAR Wire Service —