Matt DiBenedetto Signs on as Leavine Family Racing’s NASCAR Driver for 2019
LFR will join Toyota and team up with Joe Gibbs Racing next season.
Leavine Family Racing will field a No. 95 Toyota with Matt DiBenedetto as driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2019, the race team announced Wednesday during a press conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina. The announcement reflects both a driver and manufacturer change ahead of next season.
"We're thrilled to welcome Matt to our organization,” Leavine Family Racing owner Bob Leavine said. "We feel that he's going to be a great addition to the team with his great personality and experience on track within the series. It's a tremendous feeling to know that we're also able to announce our alignment with JGR and TRD for next season, as well. Obviously, they're both first-class organizations and proven winners, so for us to be able to align with them is a huge step for our organization. I'm excited as we continue to work ahead for 2019 thanks to getting Matt as our driver and Toyota as our manufacturer.”
A technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing means JGR will supply Leavine Family Racing with cars. LFR will get its engines from Toyota Racing Development. Leavine Family Racing is making a move from Chevrolet, where it has had an alliance with Richard Childress Racing. Leavine announced an end to that alliance earlier this year.
"Toyota welcomes LFR to our racing family, and we look forward to seeing the No. 95 Camry on track in the 2019 MENCS season,” Toyota Motor North America General Manager for Motorsports Laura Pierce said. "They are a talented and well-run organization with the commitment to improve their competitiveness in this sport. The addition of a driver like Matt DiBenedetto and his enthusiasm and dedication to excelling on the race track will certainly make a positive impact on the team"
Leavine Family Racing began as a part-time Ford team in 2011. The team switched to Chevrolet and went full-time in the Cup Series in 2016.
DiBenedetto will finish the 2018 season as driver of the No. 32 Ford for Go FAS Racing. This season is DiBenedetto’s second with Go FAS Racing. When he moves to Leavine Family Racing, he’ll replace Kasey Kahne and Regan Smith.
Kahne announced his retirement from NASCAR competition, effective at the end of the 2018 season, in August. His final season was cut short by a health issue that has kept him out of the No. 95 since the Sept. 2 running of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. He announced yesterday that his ongoing health issue, related to dehydration and heat exhaustion, will keep him out of the car for the remainder of the season.
Smith, who has been filling in for Kahne, will finish the season in the No. 95.
Next season will be DiBenedetto’s fifth in the Cup Series. Before joining GoFAS Racing, he drove for BK Racing for two seasons. In 134 races in NASCAR’s premier series, DiBenedetto has four top-10 finishes. His best finish to date was a sixth at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee in 2016.
DiBenedetto drove Toyotas during his time at BK Racing.
"I can only begin to explain how fortunate I am to be joining LFR,” DiBenedetto said. "The thought of being reunited with Toyota and the folks at TRD is just unbelievable for me and my family. This is the biggest opportunity of my life, and it's a dream come true to be a part of a team that continues to elevate their program at the highest level of NASCAR. No words can describe my gratitude to everyone who believes in me. I've had to fight so hard, the old-school way, to get here, and that will always make me appreciate this amazing opportunity. When I got the phone call from Bob and Jeremy [Lange, LFR General Manager], I was speechless. My wife and I both had tears of joy, and it was a very emotional moment that we will always cherish. I look forward to making everyone proud next year, working day and night with my team to show people what we are made of."
Upon Wednesday’s announcement, DiBenedetto received congratulations from fellow-NASCAR driver A.J. Allmendinger via Twitter.