By Dustin Albino

Don Sackett, president of SciAps, didn‘t know much about racing five years ago, but he quickly became enthralled with motorsports. So much so that he aligned with RSS Racing this season to not only sponsor Ryan Sieg for the duration of the 2024 Xfinity Series schedule, but to start Viking Motorsports.

“Quite honestly, we wanted to see what it would be like to actually have a team in NASCAR,” Sackett told Jayski.com. “We went to the Siegs and said, ‘Can we lease the 38 number and we‘ll take responsibility for the car, damage, crew and the hauler expense?‘ We negotiated a purse split. We‘re running the 38 car as if we were the owner of the team.”

RSS Racing prepares the No. 38 Ford out of its Georgia race shop and brings it to the track weekly. Sackett is in charge of getting the drivers.

Sackett‘s goal is to give his customers an experience to remember at the race track. He had more than enough customers that were enthused with racing to not only be a full-time sponsor in the sport, but to become a partner on the No. 38 car.

The plan for Viking Motorsports to begin the season was to have CJ McLaughlin be the team‘s primary driver. McLaughlin‘s full-time job away from the track is as a salesman for SciAps in Massachusetts.  But after failing to qualify for two of the opening four races, including the season opener at Daytona, Sackett knew he needed to make a change.

“I‘ve been encouraging CJ to get into some late model races and try to pick up some ARCA races and keep gaining experience,” Sackett said. “He has had some great races in the past. I just think he needs on-track experience and he‘s trying to get it.”

When Viking Motorsports faced the dilemma of finding a new driver, Doug Campbell, spotter of the No. 38 car, suggested Matt DiBenedetto. The pair worked together previously at Leavine Family Racing and Wood Brothers Racing in the Cup Series, and DiBenedetto was looking for a ride after being removed from the No. 25 Rackley W.A.R. truck amid the 2023 playoffs.

DiBenedetto was more than pleased to accept the opportunity after speaking with Sackett and getting his vision for the race team.

DiBenedetto recalled, “He was so nice, humble and I could tell from talking with him through the first conversation how his passion for the sport — he hasn‘t been in the sport for a long time — was oozing out of him.”

The plan, initially, for DiBenedetto was to compete in a five-race stretch for Viking Motorsports, beginning at Richmond and ending at Dover. With two DNQs in the opening four races of the season, the No. 38 team elected to not enter the stacked race at Circuit of The Americas. The team entered Richmond 41st in the owner standings.

DiBenedetto will continue being the primary driver for the No. 38 car whenever it shows up to the track in 2024. The team will enter the next two races at Darlington and Charlotte, and they are looking for a road course car so that they can enter the two west coast races at Portland and Sonoma.

“He will be back 100%,” Sackett said. “We don‘t know our full schedule for the rest of the season, but our plan is to do most of the races. He will be back for all of the races.”

With limited success out of the gate, DiBenedetto wasn‘t sure what to expect. He knew that RSS Racing‘s  equipment was solid. He‘s also a driver who has experienced many scenarios throughout his career, competing with some of the best teams in the sport while also making start and park appearances just to survive.

“It helps me have a good perspective going into any situation,” DiBenedetto said of his racing journey. “I‘ve had a humbling few years of life and am very thankful for that because I‘ve come into this situation with a lot of gratitude.

“I didn‘t know exactly what to expect, but after talking and getting up to speed with the team and their goals and everything, it‘s like, ‘Alright, I think top 20s are going to be Goal A.‘ Running in the top 15 would be the ultimate goal for a smaller team that’s growing.”

DiBenedetto accomplished that in his first race in the No. 38 car, placing 18th at Richmond. He followed that run up with a 21st-place effort at Martinsville, but was involved in an accident. Another top-20 finish was in the team‘s near future at Texas, while DiBenedetto used his superspeedway prowess to place eighth at Talladega.

“[DiBenedetto] came in and moved us up from below 40th to [34th] in owner points,” Sackett said. “We expect to keep climbing. Driving experience and knowledge of the car and the track and how to race has been a big help for us.”

To be thrown back into the Xfinity Series, DiBenedetto considers this a “bigger blessing than I could even put into words.” He believes the older he gets, the more wisdom he gains and has learned valuable lessons along the way. It‘s almost like he has been given another chance.

“Because of life experience and the roller coaster ride that I‘ve been on in this journey, we all make mistakes and all the ups and downs,” he said. “Those things have put me in a place of significantly more gratitude where I come into an opportunity like this being back in the racecar, in the garage every week.

“I find myself more like a kid. I feel like I‘m a kid going to the race track, super pumped. I‘m pumped even just packing my gear to go to the track. I feel myself having this newfound humility and gratitude for the littlest of things that I‘ve overlooked in years past.”

After DiBenedetto was replaced at the Wood Brothers following a two-year stint, he won his first national touring series race at Talladega with Rackley in the Truck Series. He followed that up by qualifying for the postseason in 2023.

Personally, he wouldn‘t change a thing about his journey.

“The last few years of life have been very humbling for good measure and it totally needed to happen because now I find myself more at peace with life and having a lot more joy for this opportunity,” DiBenedetto said. “My identity before was so sunk into being a NASCAR driver, Cup driver and all the pressure. My identity was so rooted in it that you live in and through it. Now, in life, I‘ve been humbled and appreciate the little things and it makes you enjoy the process more.”

DiBenedetto has picked up a new hobby in dirt racing at local tracks in North Carolina during the week to hone in on his skills. Prior to the 2024 season, he had a sponsor back out after he was lined up to be a part-time driver for Kaulig Racing in the Cup Series.

He has also come to accept whatever may happen in his NASCAR career.

“I think my main focus is this team believes in me and I‘m all in with them, so that‘s my focus is building this program,” DiBenedetto added. “In the big picture, Cup racing, I‘m at peace with whatever. I‘ve surrendered my life more to life‘s plan more so than mine. I‘ve tried to control so much in my past. I‘ve been guilty of forcing things or trying to do everything my way, and it really hasn‘t worked out. I think now I‘m along for the ride.”

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