Matt DiBenedetto will not be a one-and-done driver of the No. 21 car.
Wood Brothers Racing said Thursday that DiBenedetto would be back with the team for the 2021 season. DiBenedetto had signed a one-year deal with an option to replace Paul Menard after the 2019 season.
DiBenedetto made the playoffs in 2020 as the No. 21 car made the postseason for the first time since when Ryan Blaney was behind the wheel. As part of the announcement saying that DiBenedetto would be back with the No. 21, Team Penske said that Austin Cindric would run a part-time Cup Series schedule in 2021. WBR operates as a satellite team of Team Penske.
"It’s such an honor to be able to continue to drive for Wood Brothers Racing and have another year to grow with this organization," DiBenedetto said in a team statement. "I am excited to learn from our 2020 notebook and I’m confident that with a full season under our belt and working together as a team, we will produce even better results. I also want to thank Ford Performance and Team Penske for their efforts in making this happen. These types of decisions take a lot of time, as we all know there are a lot of factors in play. All three groups want to make the best decisions for everyone involved and I’m appreciative to have the opportunity to continue to compete for such a legendary race team."
Had DiBenedetto not returned to the team, Cindric was seen as his likely replacement. Cindric, the son of Team Penske executive Tim Cindric, has five wins in the Xfinity Series this season and is second in the points standings to Chase Briscoe.
DiBenedetto is 15th in standings
DiBenedetto has been driving backmarker Cup Series equipment for most of his career. He drove for BK Racing and GoFas Racing and left GoFas at the end of the 2018 season with the hope of securing a competitive ride.
He signed on with Leavine Family Racing in 2019 and had three top-five finishes and seven top 10s on the way to a 22nd-place finish in the points standings. That was seven spots higher than his previous career-best points finish.
But LFR, a Toyota team that’s going extinct at the end of the season, cut ties with DiBenedetto after just one season so that Christopher Bell could take his place. When Menard retired from the Cup Series, he recommended that DiBenedetto replace him.
DiBenedetto is currently 15th in the points standings and has three top fives and eight top 10s in 2020. He appeared to finish second on Sunday at Talladega before he was penalized for a last-lap block.
DiBenedetto’s one-year extension means that Team Penske will have options at the end of the season. Cindric will likely be ready to drive full-time in the Cup Series and Brad Keselowski also signed a one-year extension with the team for 2021.
What 2021 team questions are still left to answer
With DiBenedetto’s future known, there’s one less question regarding the 2021 Cup Series field. But there are still two significant rides that are yet to be filled. Hendrick Motorsports has three drivers for four cars and Stewart-Haas Racing has yet to announce who will drive Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 car in 2021. Bowyer could return to the car for another season (or more) or the team could opt to put Briscoe in the seat given his Xfinity Series success.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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