Matt DiBenedetto started 2021 in a familiar place, on the hot seat. It was disappointing to see him start this year off with an average finish of 28.5, but he has since rebounded and vaulted that up to 16.5. This uptick has possibly saved his career, because some new bit of information surfaced after the race yesterday.
DiBenedetto finished 4th at Kansas and this led to an interesting comment from Larry McReynolds who said that Roger Penske told him that DiBenedetto has a team option for the driver in 2022. So, it seems like DiBenedetto is not completely out of running in the Penske camp.
Larry Mac did not specify if accepting this offer would keep him with the Wood Brothers or if he would make the jump over to Penske. Austin Cindric has been announced as the driver for the 21-car in 2022, but it would seem silly to promote Matt DiBenedetto to a fourth Penske car, whenever a driver as young as Cindric is the endgame for Penske. I would assume that it would be easy for Penske to just move Cindric over to the mother team instead of having him serve a gap year at the Wood Brothers.
I believe the decision to move Austin Cindirc was made under the assumption that Matty D would put up similar numbers from 2020. If he puts numbers up like he is currently, then it would be silly to let him walk.
All this fourth Penske car talk is contingent upon Brad Keselowski resigning in the offseason. This seems likely considering there will not be many better seats available. Stewart-Haas might get rid of Almirola, but that team seems to be on a downturn, and I would not take that ride over his current one. The only other option would be if 23XI Racing offers their second car to him, or if a new team like Kaulig or JR Motorsports opens up to him.
23XI Racing probably has too many young drivers vying for that ride for it to be worth it to them to sign a veteran. I don’t see why Kaulig Racing would be better than Penske. JR Motorsports is probably still a pipe dream at this stage, but that would be a decent reunion, and possibly a good excuse for Jr. to bring his team up to Cup.
In the end, this is exciting news for Matty D fans, as it seems he’s finally taking steps towards being competitive and contending for wins. There is still hope that 2021 doesn’t have to be his last year in decent equipment.
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