1. Can Matt DiBenedetto get the 100th win for Wood Brothers Racing?
Let’s be honest, both team and driver need a win. The man affectionately known as Matty D is beloved by fans as an underdog. After Levine Family Racing announced it was replacing DiBenedetto with Christopher Bell in 2020 the narrative that Matt DiBenedetto is fighting for his Cup career became water cooler talk for NASCAR fans everywhere. He instantly became known for his raw and authentic post-race interviews and press conferences. The bad news for Matty D is that the idea of his Cup career being on the line has become a constant theme. Going to the iconic Wood Brothers was supposed to be the big break he was looking for. He was supposed to win. He hasn’t. He’s come up short time and time again. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t gone terribly. However, 2021 has been a year of slight regression. He missed the playoffs and his average finish has slipped from 14.8 in 2020 to 17.1 this season. Thanks to the alliance to Team Penske the 21 car is a possibility to win every week, but after three 2nd place finishes in 2020 and none this season time is running out. Harrison Burton takes over in 2022 but getting that milestone win could get DiBenedetto a call from one of the more prestigious cup car options before everything is finalized and most importantly prove he belongs. Keep your eye on the 21 the rest of this season.
2. Darrell’s Battle For 17th After finishing 2nd in Coke Zero Sugar 400 thanks to Chris Buescher’s failed post-race inspection Darrell Wallace was asked what would make this year a success for him? Wallace quickly replied “17th in points.” Make no mistake about it. It means a ton for Wallace or any other non-playoff driver to finish 17th. While his critics are quick to call this season a catastrophic failure that simply isn’t true. I’m sure Wallace and company are understandably disappointed, especially with his lofty goal of winning 3 races set to come up short barring an incredible
unforeseen run. His goal now has to be just getting that elusive first win. It would be one of the most historic moments in NASCAR history. When you place realistic expectations on Wallace and 23XI Racing this season has been a success. Sure, the top-10 finishes may not entirely bear that out when you compare it to his 2020 numbers with Richard Petty Motorsports but if you dig a little deeper and look at the season in total he’s already matched his number of top-5 finishes from a year ago and there’s still 9 races remaining. He has had far more speed and has had some tough luck. Look no further than this year’s Daytona 500. He was by far the quickest car on the track. His average finish has ticked up from 21.2 in 2020 to 19.2 this season. He has 16 lead-lap finishes so far, only 18 in all of 2020. 23XI Racing is outperforming every other “new team”. If he finishes 17th in points with an entirely brand new team that’s all anyone can realistically ask for.
3. Trackhouse Gaining Traction?
Daniel Suarez, in my opinion, has always been a guy that has gotten the short end of the stick. I know it’s a results-driven business but Suarez was never given anything close to a grace period despite being the 2016 Xfinity Series champion. After two seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing and just one at Stewart-Haas racing, he was left out in NASCAR’s proverbial wilderness and took a full-time ride with the extremely limited
Gaunt Brothers Racing. He’s now driving for the first-year Trackhouse Racing and he’s quietly proven that he deserves a top-20 ride. His average finish is 20.7. He has 1 top-5 and 3 top