Inside the Hauler: Matt DiBenedetto
This year has been a year of firsts for me and this weekend was no different! From the people I have meet and had a chance to talk to, to the races and tracks we have been at to cover; I have been able to do things this year that I could only dream about doing back in my high school days. Now besides the pre race pit passes my father won in a radio contest when I was about 14 years old, and really those are only good to walk up and down pit road. This past weekend thanks to a buddy of mine we were able to not only hit pit road but had Nationwide garage passes and an exclusive interview set up with Matt DiBenedetto, the driver of the No. 40 Chevy Camaro for The Motorsports Group. Certainly an experience for the record books so far, so come on in and enjoy our little sit down and get to know a little bit more about this young, up and coming driver.
The Weekly Racer: Matt, thank you so much for sitting down with us and taking this interview with us we really do appreciate that! For some that may not know, tell us how you got started in racing.
Matt DiBenedetto: Well no one in my family races or anything, well my dad drag raced a little but nothing serious but I just young rode four wheelers, dirt bikes, anything I got on I just ran wide open, I just liked to go fast on everything I got on. My dad was passing through the channels one day and he passed by NASCAR and I made him go back and we watched it. If anything had an engine and went fast I was in to. I grew up playing baseball and one of the guys on my baseball team raced and my dad was talking about how anything I got onto I wanted to go fast, went up there and checked it out and thats how I got into it.
TWR: How old were you?
MD: I was about to turn seven.
TWR: So what classes or divisions did you run growing up?
MD: Really just karts on dirt, little outlaw karts or mini sprint cars. Thats all I really ran thought out at Cycleland Speedway out in California.
TWR: So a lot of drivers end up making the move to Carolina to further their racing career, when did you end up making that move?
MD: 2003 I think it was. I was racing the karts on dirt and we moved up to kind of one of the top divisions, the open series. Just a lot more potential out in North Carolina you know, so we came out this way for the racing stuff and really didn’t know what we were getting into. It was way tougher than we though, just kind of came out here kept on racing and started winning everything and got noticed by Gibbs. We got a test with them and that went well so they signed me and thats how I got into the NASCAR world.
TWR: As one of their developmental driver right?
TWR: How was that experience?
MD: It was good. I kind of got in there as the driver development were fading out so I kind of got in at the wrong time so my opportunity got cut short.
TWR: So I was doing some research and saw you spent some time in the UARA series. How was your time there?
MD: It was really good! When I ran that there was a lot of cars, usually fifty to sixty cars and we won some big races. One of them was Bristol in 2008, I was the youngest winner in history to win there.
TWR: How old were you when you won that race?
MD: I was 16 so that was a really big win for us, I mean it was just a really good series though, I hate that its not as big now as it was back then.
TWR: How does it feel leaving the “Start and Park” days in the past and being able to run the rest of the season?
MD: It was awesome, I was super excited. Its just awesome to be able to get to race every week. Able to get a lot of seat time and have a lot of fun being able to race. Going to try and work with the team and get our stuff as good as we can and have a lot of solid runs. If we finish in the top twenty with the budget we have to work on that is like a small win for us you know.
TWR: Besides being able to race each weekend with The Motorsports Group what is one of the better moments so far this season?
MD: I wouldn’t really say just one particular thing but overall we have had a few stand out finishes. We finished 11th at Road America, 13th at Mid Ohio and 19th at Bristol, so we have had a lot of solid runs since I have been driving.
TWR: With the season starting to get into its final months where do you see yourself at in the future?
MD: Man I have no idea yet, thats a good question. I don’t know what their plans are hear yet.
TWR: Well what would you like to happen in 2015?
MD: Honestly if its just racing full-time in the Nationwide that would be great with me, but if I could gets some Cup races in here and there that would be awesome too. Nothing real in particular other than to be able to race full time and compete, can’t really ask much more than that you know.
TWR: So tell us what has been your favorite track to race at so far?
MD: Oh, my favorite track… Man I don’t event know, as far as the road courses Mid Ohio was probably the most fun track I have been to but I like road racing. As far as ovals, I like Bristol a lot its really fun and I have always run good there…
No wait Darlington never mind its the most fun place to drive!
TWR: So Darlington it is, now I have heard thats kind of a tough track to drive.
MD: Yea its different to figure out but its just more fun than any other, you can just hustle the car a lot and drive it hard.
TWR: So if you could pick any series, any track out there, what is one race that you would like to compete in?
MD: Anything on dirt!!
TWR: Fair enough, always try and catch a ride at Charlotte in November! So do you have any superstitions or rituals you do on race day or before the race starts? Lucky shirt, certain breakfast, certain song?
MD: Give Hudson a kiss [laughter], but no nothing really weird.
TWR: Are you scared of the color green, you know how some drivers hate to run green on the car.
MD: No not really, I have a selection of a few t-shirts I wear under my fire suit but thats it. It has to be one of those few, I have a Darlington Speedway shirt, thats one of them so there are a couple shirts I can pick from that I will say are my lucky shirts.
TWR: So if you don’t mind I would like to switch to some non race related questions if you will. Things fans can read and say, “hey I did that growing up” or “thats my favorite food too,” something to help show these fans that they may be a little bit more like the drivers than they think. So with that being said what styles of movie do you like to watch?
MD: Well my favorite movie in general is Forrest Gump.
TWR: So when your away from the track do you like to play any video games?
MD: I play iRacing some! I wreck a lot on iRacing though. I don’t play video games much, I like to maybe hang out with some friends
TWR: Is there anyone on or off the track you kind of look up to?
MD: I have always liked Carl Edwards, I just really think he’s great with his fans and just a really nice guy and being great with the fans is the main thing.
TWR: So before we get out of here Matt and let you go qualify the car we try and focus on getting some of the local drivers names out there and give them some time in the lime light and all. What kind of advice would you give these guys who are trying to work their way up ladder so to speak?
MD: Well, it really is tough! I sometimes look back and think everyday and wonder how I have gotten this far without a lot of sponsorship, they solely let me drive because they think I can wheel their cars pretty good. I would say though win your racing you need to have fun.