Matt DiBenedetto was overwhelmed with emotion after scoring his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series top five in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

“This is a team effort,” DiBenedetto said after the race. “I’m so lucky to be doing this. My path to get here has been so out of the ordinary and old school. I’m so thankful."

While basking in the glory, the humble DiBenedetto took the opportunity to thank everybody that has played a part in his NASCAR career.

“I can’t tell you how many people took a chance on me,” he continued. “My sponsor Procore, TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing; Bob and Sherry Leavine, my crew chief Wheels - all those people had to say yes and take the chance on me,” he said. “I can’t explain how thankful I am.”

DiBenedetto, driving a throwback livery honouring retiring NASCAR broadcaster Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip, started the 90-lap event in 19th place and played the long game early. He pitted before the end of each of the opening 20-lap stages which elevated him to a valuable sixth place position when the final stage started on Lap 45.

He remained among the frontrunners throughout the final stint was among the last cars to pit on Lap 65.

That initially dropped him outside the top five but had much fresher tyres than his rivals around him.

That gave the Leavine Family Racing driver the upper hand as he tore through the pack and entered the top ten on Lap 70 when he passed William Byron.

He continued his charge by picking off drivers with relative ease and moved into the top five by passing seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson on Lap 80.

He did one better and ran down Kevin Harvick for fourth and dispatching him on Lap 86 and holding the position to the checkered flag.

The result is the best career finish for the 27-year-old in 156 starts. His previous best finish was a sixth place came at the Spring Bristol race in 2016 when he finished sixth.

 

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