NASCAR: Matt DiBenedetto out at Wood Brothers Racing after 2021

Matt DiBenedetto Wood Brothers Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Matt DiBenedetto Wood Brothers Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Matt DiBenedetto is slated to return to Wood Brothers Racing for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, but he is set be replaced by Austin Cindric after 2021.

Wood Brothers Racing confirmed on Thursday that they have picked up the option on Matt DiBenedetto’s contract to keep him behind the wheel of the #21 Ford for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, which is slated to be DiBenedetto’s second year with the team.

However, it was also confirmed that the 2021 season will be the 29-year-old Grass Valley, California native’s final season with the team.

There was initially doubt that DiBenedetto would be back behind the wheel of the #21 Ford due to the emergence of Team Penske Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric.

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Team Penske and Wood Brothers Racing have a technical alliance, and Cindric has had a breakout year at NASCAR’s second highest level of competition that has seen him win five races in a six-race span.

While the 22-year-old Columbus, Ohio native won’t be replacing DiBenedetto for the 2021 season, he is slated to make the move to the Cup Series as the driver of the #21 Ford in 2022 when the Gen 7 car debuts. This decision gives Cindric another season to develop in the Xfinity Series before making the jump to the highest level of stock car racing, and it gives DiBenedetto another full season to focus on doing what he needs to do to land a future ride.

Cindric is also slated to compete in select Cup Series races next year as he prepares to make the move to full-time competition in 2022.

Here is what he had to say about the matter in a team release.

"“This is a big step forward in my career long-term, and I am humbled and motivated by the opportunity and the confidence that Team Penske, Ford Performance, the Wood Brothers, and all of our partners have expressed in my abilities and my development as a driver. Every race car driver wants to advance in his career, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than on a clear path with Team Penske that will eventually lead to a full-time opportunity in the NASCAR Cup Series. I’m really excited for this next chapter in my development to continue working towards competing and trying to win at the highest level. Another season of experience in the Xfinity Series will be beneficial and I’m looking forward to competing in some Cup Series races in 2021 to prepare for a full season in 2022.”"

Here is what Team Penske team owner Roger Penske had to add.

"“As we continue to position our team for future success, it is important to make sure Austin continues his development in the Xfinity Series with Team Penske. Austin has made great strides in recent years and he has become a consistent winner and a true championship contender this season. He will continue his natural progression and get some Cup Series experience in 2021. That will help him prepare for a full season in 2022 with the new NextGen car, racing the No. 21 Ford Mustang for Wood Brothers Racing.”"

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Cindric currently sits in second place in the Xfinity Series championship standings with 28 of the 33 races on the schedule in the books, including the first two round of 12 playoff races. He has recorded 17 top five finishes, 22 top 10 finishes and an average finish of 8.4 this year.