NASCAR silly season rolls on with Matt DiBenedetto, Daniel Suárez securing Cup rides
Tick two more names from the dumb season checklist. After Hendrick Motorsports named Alex Bowman the next # 48 driver on Tuesday, Cup drivers Matt DiBenedetto and Daniel Suárez set their plans for 2021 this week.
Wood Brothers Racing and Team Penske announced their future drivers for the Ford No. 21 driven by DiBenedetto on Thursday morning. The driver will stay with the Wood Brothers, who have a technical alliance with Team Penske, for another season. A decision on DiBenedetto's contract was dragged out longer than originally expected, but the good news finally fell for DiBenedetto.
"I'll be back in 21 next year !!!" DiBenedetto tweeted on Thursday.
After DiBenedetto crossed the finish line second in Talladega on Sunday (which was later changed to 21st when NASCAR believed it had broken the yellow line rule), he said on Tuesday that he still hoped for that Best in terms of deciding whether the team would pick up their contract option for another year.
The 29-year-old from California had expressed his desire to stay with the Wood Brothers and previously said he should receive a decision by the end of September. That decision came a week later with Team Penske's announcement that Xfinity driver Austin Cindric would switch to the # 21 car in 2022.
The Penske Organization announced that one of its development drivers, 22-year-old Cindric, will receive a contract extension "for the foreseeable future" to compete full-time in the Xfinity series for the next season while he selected prior to the move Cup Events participates in full-time Cup races in 2022.
"That will help (Cindric) prepare for a full season in 2022 with the new NextGen car driving the # 21 Ford Mustang for Wood Brothers Racing," said a statement from Team Penske owner Roger Penske .
That means DiBenedetto will be looking for a new ride at the end of next season, but for now he can breathe easy. DiBenedetto achieved three top 5 placements and eight top 10 placements this season. He qualified for the first time in six years in the NASCAR top series for the playoffs. He landed a last-minute ride with the Wood Brothers for this season after Leavine Family Racing, his former team, announced it would go to Cup rookie Christopher Bell for 2020.
"Matt has succeeded in very difficult circumstances this year," Eddie Wood, owner of Wood Brothers, told NASCAR.com. “Since joining our team, he has had limited time to work with our group due to the pandemic. Despite being a completely new organization, he found a way to consistently move forward and make it to the playoffs. We have learned a lot together this year and look forward to continuing to build with Matt in 2021. "
While DiBenedetto will stay, Suárez will make another team change, his fourth in four years. Suárez announced on Wednesday that he will be joining a new Cup team launched by Justin Marks, a former driver and owner of Trackhouse Entertainment Group.
"Forming a high-level NASCAR Cup Series team has been a dream of mine for a long time," Marks told NASCAR.com. "It took a lot of hard work to get us to this point and I don't think we could have had better partners in RCR and Chevrolet and a more passionate and dedicated driver than Daniel Suárez."
Suárez, who drives the No. 96 Toyota for Gaunt Brothers Racing, will compete in the No. 99 Chevrolet for Trackhouse next season. The new team will form an alliance with Richard Childress Racing and lease a charter from Spire Motorsports to ensure the No. 99 has a spot in the field for all Cup races next season.
Spire said it has secured a third charter that will be leased to Marks, and the team continues to plan to run a two-car program in 2021. Marks said he might want to buy the charter and expects the team to have five major sponsorship partners over the next year.
"We're building a team of winners and Daniel has delivered almost every time he's in race-winning gear," Marks told NASCAR.com. "It is my job now to put a car under him that will take him to the highest level of the sport."
Suárez will be driving Chevrolet gear next season, but he has also driven Toyota cars with Joe Gibbs Racing and Ford gear for Stewart-Haas. Suárez made his Rookie Cup debut at Gibbs in 2017 and has eight top five finishes in the Cup series.
The Monterrey native Mexican will also have the opportunity to work with Trackhouse to launch his social mission of providing STEM education opportunities to underrepresented youth in the United States. The team said it will work with school districts, community organizations and youth groups to create the "most impactful roadmap" for those inspired to pursue a STEM career.
"I see a great opportunity in Trackhouse for me with a very strong group of people who share the same vision, commitment and goals as I do," Suárez told NASCAR.com. "Justin has been in the racing world for over 20 years and understands the ins and outs of the sport as both a driver and the business side."
"I've learned that this sport is about people and I know we will work very hard to put together a talented team," said Suárez. “In addition, the support of a strong manufacturer like Chevrolet will be a key to our success. My goal is simple, I want to win races. "
Trackhouse is the second new Cup team announced for 2021, according to news from a team made up of Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan.
For the latest news on contract and team moves, check out our full Silly Season Tracker.
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