10/11 - FROM PIT ROAD: A WIN FOR EVERYONE

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The announcement that Matt DiBenedetto will return to the Wood Brothers and the iconic No. 21 in 2021, and that Austin Cindric would take over that ride in 2022, is a win for all parties.

Starting with the famed Wood Brothers Racing Team – the oldest active NASCAR team. Remember the time not too long ago (2015) when they were not even offered a NASCAR ownership charter? Candidly many wondered what the future held for the storied team with 99 NASCAR Cup Series wins with drivers like David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Neil Bonnett, Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt, Buddy Baker and others.

The charter issue sorted itself out over time, the team aligned with Team Penske and now appears to have solid footing with a plan well into the future.

"Matt has been able to find success this year under very difficult circumstances," said team President and Co-Owner Eddie Wood. "Since he joined our team, he only had limited time working with our group due to the pandemic. While it’s been an entirely new organization, he found a way to consistently run up front and make the Playoffs. We have learned a lot together this year and we look forward to continuing to build with Matt in 2021."

For Penske Racing the move keeps their young talent Austin Cindric in house. He will run a full season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and will also get a limited number of Cup Series starts in 2021.

Cindric has accomplished everything asked of a young driver, two wins last year in the Xfinity Series and five wins thus far this year. He is in the thick of the 2020 series championship battle.

“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,” said Roger 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.”

For DiBendetto, it is everything any driver hopes for; a chance to drive winning equipment.

"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," said DiBenedetto. "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."

And for Cindric, there is a contract extension that gives him one more year of fine-tuning in the Xfinity Series and stability as he gets ready to make the biggest step in his career.

“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,” said Cindric.

“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."

Beyond all the contractual, career and on-track sense this makes, it is also a winner in the “goodwill” category.

Matt DiBenedetto is an extremely popular driver. The scrappy, journeyman found himself in a similar spot last year and briefly on the outside looking in. This year he has landed solidly and gets the opportunity to do what every driver needs to do to maintain a long career in NASCAR – win races.

- Postman

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