Matt DiBenedetto Joins Leavine Family Racing; Team Switches to Toyota for 2019
|Matt DiBenedetto will pilot the No. 95 Camry in 2019|
Leavine Family Racing will begin fielding Toyota Camrys in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with driver Matt DiBenedetto piloting the No. 95 Camry in 2019.
The partnership with Toyota starts next season and will include support from Toyota Racing Development, who will build the team's engines and provide technology, data and technical assistance. Joe Gibbs Racing will provide chassis and other technical support for the team.
"I can only begin to explain how fortunate I am to be joining LFR," said Matt DiBenedetto. "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 (Leavine) 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."
DiBenedetto is a four-year veteran of the NASCAR Cup Series, who caught the eyes of many throughout the racing industry after capturing a hard-fought sixth-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016. The result was the first of four career top-10 finishes for the 27-year old.
The Grass Valley, California-native got his start with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing back in 2009 driving a limited schedule of NASCAR Xfinity Series races, along with NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races. In his seven NXS starts with JGR, DiBenedetto captured two top-10 finishes. DiBenedetto also claimed two wins, four top-five finishes, and three poles in his seven races in 2009 with JGR in the NKNPSE.
"We're thrilled to welcome Matt (DiBenedetto) to our organization," said Bob Leavine, Owner of Leavine Family Racing. "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."
In addition to working with TMNA and TRD, Leavine Family Racing has also entered into a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, which will provide chassis for the No. 95 Camry
The alliance with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing is a similar arrangement to the one forged with Furniture Row Racing back in 2016, which culminated in a championship last season for FRR and driver Martin Truex, Jr. before FRR team owner Barney Vissar abruptly announced the team's imminent closure back in September.
Wednesday’s announcement was yet another “silly season” domino to fall as a result of the FRR's closure. Furniture Row Racing had been aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing since the start of the 2016 season, basically becoming a JGR satellite team. The rising financial cost of maintaining the technical alliance with JGR was cited by Visser as one of the reasons he decided to shut the doors.
LFR was founded by Texas businessman Bob Leavine and Lance Fenton back in 2011 and competed on a limited basis in both the Cup and Truck Series before going full time in 2016. The team has gone through a number of mergers and technical alliances over the last seven years - running Fords with Team Penske in 2014 before switching to Chevrolet in 2016 with an alliance with Richard Childress Racing.
- Pete McCole