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TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - OCTOBER 04: Matt DiBenedetto, driver of the #21 Menards/Tuscany Ford, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 04, 2020 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Matt DiBenedetto returning to Wood Brothers Racing next season; Austin Cindric to drive in 2022


After a successful first season driving for NASCAR’s longest-running team, Wood Brothers Racing announced today that Matt DiBenedetto will return to compete in the famed No. 21 Ford Mustang in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series.

Since joining Wood Brothers Racing earlier this year, DiBenedetto has earned three top-five finishes and eight top-10 results this season as he qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs for the first time in his six-year career competing in NASCAR’s premier series. DiBenedetto finished as runner-up in both Cup Series races at Las Vegas this season, including in the Playoff round at the 1.5-mile track on September 27. He also came within a few feet of earning his first Cup Series victory in last weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

"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."

Wood Brothers Racing, the oldest active NASCAR team and one of the winningest teams in series history, has enjoyed considerable success over the last couple of years. The team has produced 99 victories at NASCAR’s top level as legendary drivers including David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Neil Bonnett, Dan Gurney, AJ Foyt and Buddy Baker have all visited Victory Lane with the team. The organization will continue its technical alliance with Team Penske in 2021, along with significant support from Ford Performance.

"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."

DiBenedetto, the 29-year-old Grass Valley, California native, is one of the most popular drivers in the Cup Series and he’s finished inside the top-five in fan voting for both the Most Popular Driver award and the All-Star Race Fan Vote the past several seasons. On the track, he’s earned six top-five and 19 top-10 finishes over the course of his career.

— Wood Brothers Racing —

AND:

Team Penske announced today that the organization is extending its driver development program by signing Austin Cindric to a contract extension that will see the 22-year-old remain with the team through the foreseeable future, driving in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) and NASCAR Cup Series (NCS).

Currently competing in the NXS Playoffs, Cindric will return to race full-time in the 2021 Xfinity Series while also earning the opportunity to drive in select Cup Series next season. In 2022, Cindric will race the full season in the Cup Series as he will transition to Wood Brothers Racing to drive the iconic No. 21 Ford Mustang. Team Penske and Wood Brothers Racing formed a technical alliance in 2015 and the teams have worked together on driver development opportunities in the past, most recently with current Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney.

"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."

Racing the No. 22 Ford Mustang in the Xfinity Series, Cindric became just the second driver in series history to win five races in the span of six events earlier this season. Along with his series-best 17 top-five finishes and over 800 laps led, he captured the 2020 NXS Regular Season Championship and entered the Playoffs tied for the top seed. He is currently positioned second in points following the second race of the NXS Playoffs last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

"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."

Over the course of his short stock car racing career, Cindric has earned seven NXS victories, along with wins in the NASCAR Truck Series, ARCA and the former NASCAR K&N Series. Cindric is one of the most diverse young racers in America, having also raced in a wide variety of series including the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Pirelli World Challenge Series, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series and Red Bull Global Rallycross.

"Our Ford Performance family is one of the strongest in the sport, and to know now that we will have a driver like Austin in our camp in both Xfinity and Cup is a very exciting prospect," said Ford Performance Global Director Mark Rushbrook. "He’s represented our brand so well this year by winning five races and being at the top of the standings, so we know he can get the job done. He’s also a great representative off the track and has helped us connect with an even younger fan base through some of our marketing initiatives. We are happy to see him remain with Team Penske and we are excited about his future with Ford Performance and the Wood Brothers."

— Team Penske —