After Cup qualifying was cancelled due to a downpour of rain and wind, the sun came back out at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Camping World Series East drivers and teams scrambled to the track to get ready for their race, the Heluva Good 125.
Ryan Truex, winner of the last East series race at Watkins Glen, looked particularly strong at New Hampshire. Truex, in his NAPA No. 00, secured the pole with a great qualifying run. Truex was also the fastest in practice and seemed to be the car to beat.
But in the final lap, Truex ended up in an epic battle with Matt DiBenedetto, the development driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Driven car. Truex looked like he would almost coast to another victory, stretching out his lead against DiBenedetto.
But DiBenedetto battled back, getting right on the back bumper of Truex's car. His move got Truex just loose enough for DiBenedetto to pull along side.
The two race cars actually touched, allowing DiBenedetto to pull into the lead and take the checkered flag. The finish was not without controversy, with both teams tussling with each other at the race's end.
Truex was the first to come to the media center. He appeared completely frazzled and unhappily shared his perspective on the race finish.
"Well, coming off of two, I seen he got a run on me and he dumped it inside a little bit so I kind of blocked him a little bit," said Truex of DiBenedetto. "He drove into the back of me, but that's fine, that's alright," he added, a bit sarcastically.
"I knew he'd do that if I blocked him but then I got back off him to get in the corner, he never let off the gas. We were side by side coming off four, and he decided to run up into me again."
Truex seemed to summarize his feelings about the race's ending by saying, "So, I don't know what else to say."
After Truex safely exited the media center, race winner DiBenedetto entered for his post-race interview. DiBenedetto and his parents were beaming from ear to ear with the race win.
DiBenedetto shared that he has been pretty satisfied with the car, from unloading to practice to qualifying.
"Today the car was a little on the tight side, but on our pit stop, we made an adjustment, freed it up and helped it a little bit," said DiBenedetto.
DiBenedetto admitted that at the end of the race he found something a little different. He began running the high line, which enabled him to catch back up to Truex for the race finish.
Of Truex, DiBenedetto said, "he tried to pull the block on me and that's totally acceptable."
"In turn three, I ran into him a little bit," DiBenedetto continued. "All in all it was a great finish."
And with the understatement of the race, he concluded, "it was a great show for the fans."
DiBenedetto's previous win was at Tri-County Speedway in April. He also took the pole at Watkins Glen.
DiBenedetto is currently running a six race deal with Joe Gibbs Racing. He is looking forward to running the East races and then making his Nationwide debut in Memphis on October 24th.
"They're giving me a great opportunity", said DiBenedetto of Joe Gibbs Racing. He also has been doing some testing for the team.
This is DiBenedetto's second win in his fourth career start in the Camping World Series East season.
DiBenedetto's proud mom and dad were also in the media center, celebrating their son's victory.
Of the race end, DiBendetto's mother confided, "I couldn't see that part of the track from where I was sitting so I was listening on the radio and I was just thinking, 'I know Matt can do it.'"
The proud mother could not say enough about Joe Gibbs Racing. "That team is just phenomenal," she said.
She said that JGR had been watching DiBenedetto for a couple of years and then made the offer to sign him as a development driver. "They gave him a shot just on talent," said his mother. "It has been a real honor."
DiBenedetto and his family are from California, but they have moved their family to North Carolina to further his career. "It's his dream," said DiBenedetto's mother. "It's been his dream to be a race car driver since kindergarten."
DiBenedetto's father could barely talk about the race finish, choking up with pride over his son's accomplishment. "I'll cry if I tell you how proud I am", said Mr. DiBenedetto.
Both parents admitted they knew little of racing before their son's involvement. Neither were race fans, but they have been quickly converted to the sport.
"We believe in him," said both parents of their young racer son. "He's just proven over and over again that he can do it."
DiBenedetto did indeed prove he could do it, edging out Truex to bring home the hardware in one of the most exciting finishes of the East series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Other East series regulars did not fare as well. Points leader Brett Moffitt, young protege of Andy Santerre Motorsports, was the first caution of the race.
Moffitt had a tire go down, spun and did major damage to the car. The crew tried valiantly to fix it, but Moffitt ended up in a wrecked race car at the end of pit road.
Matt Kobyluck, past champion of the East Series, also looked strong throughout most of the race. He got caught up in a late-race incident and the damage was significant enough to push him back in the pack to finish in the eleventh spot.
Tiffany Daniels, one of the young up-and-coming females driving for Bobby Hamilton, Jr., had a miserable day, lagging in the back for most of the race. She finally spun out on Lap 105, hitting hard into the pit wall.
Chase Mattioli, grandson of the owners of the Pocono Raceway, also had a miserable day. He had contact, damage, and finished in the 26th position.
The top ten finishers in the Heluva Good 125 were as follows:
1. Matt DiBenedetto
2. Ryan Truex
3. Kevin Swindell
4. Ryan Gifford
5. Jody Lavendar
6. Eddie MacDonald
7. Alan Tardiff
8. Jesus Hernandez
9. Patrick Long
10. Steve Park
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