The NASCAR Cup Series drivers will head to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, June 13, for the annual All-Star Open and All-Star Race. Wood Brothers Racing and Matt DiBenedetto will make the trip but will do so after a major change. The team paired its driver with a new crew chief, Jonathan Hassler.
Wood Brothers Racing announced the move on Tuesday, June 8. The statement confirmed that Hassler will replace Greg Erwin for the remainder of the season, starting with the All-Star Open. Erwin has held the role of crew chief with the team for three seasons, working with Paul Menard and then DiBenedetto.
Hassler, a Team Penske engineer, has some experience as DiBenedetto’s crew chief. According to Racer, he replaced Erwin for a race at Martinsville Speedway on April 11. The No. 21 Ford Mustang started 22nd but finished 12th.
Erwin and DiBenedetto Had Previous Success in NASCAR
First paired together for the 2020 season, Erwin and DiBenedetto found success during the 2020 season. The No. 21 did not reach Victory Lane but posted 11 top-10 finishes and three top-fives. DiBenedetto made the playoffs on points and finished the season 13th in the standings.
The two best performances took place in Sin City. DiBenedetto kicked off the season with a second-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway while Joey Logano raced his way to Victory Lane. He then returned to the oval during the playoffs, finishing second behind Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch. Though he was out of playoff contention at the time of the race.
Based on this success, DiBenedetto entered the 2021 season with the opportunity to win his first career race in the Cup Series. However, the team has struggled through the first 16 races. DiBenedetto only has two top-five finishes in the season along with six outside the top 20.
The driver of the No. 21 Ford Mustang currently sits 17th in points, one spot outside of the cutoff line. He has only 10 races remaining before the playoffs begin to make positive strides. However, he will have to make up 60 points in order to leapfrog Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher.
Wood Brothers Racing Will Undergo Another Change in 2022
While DiBenedetto will join forces with Hassler for the remainder of the 2021 season, it will only be a short-lived relationship. Wood Brothers Racing will bring defending Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric to the Cup Series in 2022, moving him to the No. 21 Ford Mustang.
This lineup change will make DiBenedetto a free agent, forcing him to find a new seat for the 2022 season. There will likely be multiple options based on the decisions by veteran drivers. Chip Ganassi Racing could lose Kurt Busch to 23XI Racing while Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski could accept a driver-owner role with Roush Fenway Racing.
DiBenedetto will have to weigh his options at the end of the season, but he won’t make that decision in the near future. Instead, he will focus on pushing for playoff points as the end of the regular season approaches. He will do so while working with a new crew chief and striving to turn his season around.