By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
If Matt DiBenedetto had done a burnout alongside race winner Carl Edwards, no one would have blamed him.
That’s how unexpected DiBenedetto’s sixth-place finish was in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol. After going a lap down, the driver of the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota got a free pass as the highest-scored lapped car for a restart on Lap 345, and subsequent cautions kept him on the lead lap.
On the final three late-race restarts, DiBenedetto lined up 14th, 10th and eighth – all in the top lane – and took full advantage of the fast way around the .533-mile concrete oval.
On the final restart with five laps left, the NASCAR Next alumnus passed Kevin Harvick for sixth and held the spot to the finish. That result was a career-best for both DiBenedetto and BK Racing.
“That’s unbelievable for a team like to us to be growing this much and for us to get a sixth-place run,” said DiBenedetto, who came to driver introductions disguised as ZZ Top lead guitarist Billy Gibbons, beard and all.
“I’m sorry I’m so emotional. It’s just this is like a win for us. I’m so excited. I see my family back here – my wife, Taylor, my brother is in town from the military and I’m so glad he got to experience this. This is just… this is incredible. I’m so blessed to be here.”
Race winner Carl Edwards had made a point of congratulating DiBenedetto on his 20th-place run in Phoenix in the fourth race of the season, but Edwards wasn’t aware of the driver’s strong run behind him.
“They finished sixth?” Edwards asked, incredulous. “Man that’s unbelievable. That’s probably tougher than what we did.”