Birthday: July 27, 1991
Hometown: Grass Valley, CA
When Matt DiBenedetto was is kindergarten, he wrote, “When I grow up, I want to be a racecar driver.” Who would have imagined that he really meant this? Now at twenty-three years old, Matt has had the opportunity to race for over thirteen years, two of which were as a development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing in both the NASCAR Camping World East and the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He is currently driving the #83 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for BK Racing. It has been an incredible opportunity and one heck of a roller coaster ride!
At five years old, Matt sat in front of the television as his Dad flicked through the channels. As Dad passed a NASCAR race, Matt asked that he go back. Matt was instantly hooked and very Sunday he sat glued to the TV watching the NASCAR race.
His Dad coached Matt’s little league team. Dad’s love is baseball. At one of the awards ceremonies, Dad announced Matt as, “My little Jeff Gordon. He likes baseball but loves racing.” One of the fathers in the group told them about some dirt outlaw kart racing that the did on Saturday nights. The next Saturday, we took Matt to watch. After the race, his Dad asked, “Is this what you want to do?” Matt was all in.
The family didn’t want to invest a bunch of money in this, so they bought him a hunk of junk kart to see if he liked it. After a couple of races, the father that we bought the kart from said, “I think Matt is going to be good at this.” Matt’s Dad (Tony) asked, “What are you trying to sell me?” But the father insisted that he really saw some talent in Matt. They decided to give it a shot and bought Matt a good kart. He went out and won his first race in the good equipment! He went on to win the championship in his first season out.
As Matt advanced in classes, he continued to win championships and major events, accumulating over 100 feature and trophy dash events and five championships by the age of eleven. People kept telling them that they should do something with this kid…so, they loaded up the truck and moved to Hickory. North Carolina that is, NASCAR stars, fast cars. Just hoping to at least blend in with the incredible talent that he would be racing against, Matt proceeded to win two more championships, gaining the attention of many people, including some prestigious NASCAR teams.
At sixteen years old, Matt competed in the Limited Late Model Division at Hickory Motor Speedway. It just so happened that he competed against a Joe Gibbs Racing team. A bit into the season, J.D. Gibbs called and asked the family to come to their shop to meet. This began a relationship with JGR.
The family continued on to field their own team, on a very tight budget, for one more season, in which he competed in the UARA Stars Late Model Touring Series. Matt took the series by surprise by winning only his second race of the season. He won two races of the season and constantly competed up front. But, sadly, that was the end of the expense account so they sold all of their race equipment.
Shortly after that, a gentleman by the name of Mitch West contacted Matt to drive for him in his Late Model. Matt won five of the first seven races he won for the team and was having a blast! He became the youngest driver in history to win at Bristol Motor Speedway. Mitch had some financial changes behind the scenes and, only halfway through the season, stopped racing. It was the first year since Matt was seven years old that he would sit out a majority of a race season.
Just as he thought he was through, a company called MMI (Motorsports Management International) hosted a combine that invited the top ten driving prospects in the country. Matt was the tenth driver to be invited, almost as an afterthought. They went to Caraway Speedway where representatives from the major NASCAR teams were to watch the ten participants take turns in the same two cars and display their driving ability. Matt was over two tenths faster than anyone else in the cars. This is a huge margin!
After this event, Joe Gibbs Racing invited Matt to a test they were conducting. They had been impressed with Matt’s performance at the MMI Combine and wanted to see him in action once again. Again, Matt out-performed the field of drivers. They told him they had watched long enough and were ready to sign Matt to a contract!!! His dream-come-true!
Matt was initially signed to a one-year contract with JGR. But after winning only his second race out, they were quick to resign him for an additional year. Matt dominated the seven of the twelve races that he ran for JGR in the Camping World East Series. He won two of the races, got three poles (two of which were in road course which he had never run in a car), broke the track record at Dover, and led the most laps of the season.
In October of 2009, JGR gave Matt his first NASCAR Nationwide Series start at Memphis, TN. Competing against Kyle Bush, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Kenny Wallace, and many more NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, Matt qualified fourth. With twenty laps to go, he was running in the top-10 when Brad Keselowski spun Carl Edwards, who was just in front of Matt. Brad rolled out of the gas, Matt rolled out of the gas, but Jason Leffler - just behind Matt - never stopped and hit Matt causing him to, again, lose track position. Matt rallied to a fourteenth place finish in his first Nationwide Series race. Matt drove for Gibbs for the following two years.
In 2011, Matt was picked up by a new Toyota team, again purely on talent. The motive of the team was to put Matt behind the wheel of one of their cars to show that they were a strong team in order to sell rides in their two other cars. Matt successfully filled their two other cars by winning a race and running up front in the season.
In 2014, Matt ran in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for TMG. He drove the car to some of the best finishes the team had ever had with any driver.
In 2015, Matt has the honor of driving in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for BK Racing in the No. 83 car.