Cup Series driver Michael McDowell won the Daytona 500 in February, his first victory at NASCAR‘s top level. He needed 14 years and more than 350 races to achieve this goal, but he finally broke through. Now McDowell is offering advice to Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto, another driver trying to take his first checkered flag.
McDowell met with Heavy and other media members following Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. He primarily discussed his third-place finish but also took time to address DiBenedetto. His main message was to avoid becoming discouraged.
“Matt D is an incredibly talented guy. He’s not going to have to wait as long as I did to win a race, I can promise you that,” McDowell said during his availability. “He’s up front so much in these races, not just at speedways, but he has a great team behind him. He will get to Victory Lane.
“The biggest thing is not getting down and discouraged, and building. You got to build from the success he had today. He had a great run, was leading a lot of laps, controlling the lanes. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the right push at the right time. We all had our own agendas and momentum.”
DiBenedetto had the lead as the white flag waved
Late in Sunday’s race, DiBenedetto appeared to be well on his way to Victory Lane. He had control of the pack and was using his No. 21 Ford Mustang to block the other drivers. DiBenedetto led a total of 28 laps, and he remained at the front of the pack as the white flag waved to indicate only one lap remaining. However, Brad Keselowski made a late move and passed DiBenedetto to steal the win.
DiBenedetto missed out on the opportunity to win his first Cup race, finishing fifth overall behind Keselowski, William Byron, McDowell, and Kevin Harvick. This outcome marked the seventh top-five finish of his seven-year Cup career and his best since a second-place finish in the 2020 Las Vegas playoff race.
DiBenedetto may not have a win on his resume, but McDowell explained that he will soon achieve this goal. He highlighted the previous strong performances as a primary reason that the No. 21 will soon sit in Victory Lane with confetti raining down on it.
“But he’s been doing so well,” McDowell added. “He will win a race. He is a great guy, has a lot of heart. He fights hard. That’s the thing, you got to fight hard. You got to want it and fight hard. He’s got that.”
DiBenedetto remains steadfast in his belief that he will soon win
The driver of the No. 21 Ford Mustang weighed in after finishing fifth at Talladega. He explained that he does not anticipate watching the end of the race, saying that it will “drive him crazy.” DiBenedetto also told reporters that he will continue to focus on the positive aspects from the previous races instead of the “heartbreaking” moments that occur.
“I think as I get older my perspective on a lot of things gets better, so the way I look at it is, it’s disappointing to come close so many times, not just today because this is Talladega and a lot of things happen that’s crazy,” DiBenedetto said on Sunday, per MSN Sports.
“But to come close — a lot of my career has consisted of a lot of that and some heartbreaks and it’s tough. The way that I look at it is I focus on what’s in my control and focus on the positives. I’m driving fast cars. We’re in position to win and I know that if we keep doing that, our day will definitely come.”
DiBenedetto will have another opportunity to reach Victory Lane on Sunday when the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway. He will compete in the Buschy McBusch Race 400. DiBenedetto has 12 starts at Kansas in his career with a career-best 12th-place finish in 2020.