Matt DiBenedetto won’t be returning to Leavine Family Racing for the 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. The decision was made by the team this week, which is in my opinion, is everything that is wrong with this sport right now.
DiBenedetto, 26, doesn’t bring much funding, if any. He’s worked so hard to prove he belongs in a Cup ride and this announcement goes to show that it’s not how about how much talent you have, it’s about how much money you can bring and/or politics.
It’s not a secret, this move was made because Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota needs to do something with either Christopher Bell or Erik Jones. JGR has Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. under contract for 2020 already. Bell, recently signed a new contract to remain with JGR/Toyota for 2020 and beyond. Jones, is showing that he deserves to remain as well and is close to an extension. That’s five drivers for four spots.
See the conundrum?
LFR is teamed with Toyota and isn’t getting much from JGR as an alliance. If they can take on Jones or Bell for 2020, they’d likely get more support – ie Furniture Row Racing. Jones, was housed there as a rookie and teamed with Truex Jr.. We all saw how well FRR’s alliance worked out. They were championship contenders each year.
By making this move, it’s a game changer in a good way for LFR in that they can receive more technical support and money from JGR/Toyota.
But, due to NASCAR rule, no organization can field more than four full time entries. That rule is somewhat new and I get why it’s in place. You don’t want JGR, Penske, Hendrick and the top teams of NASCAR showing up and taking over 80-percent of the fields. It also helps keep costs down as the teams know that they’re maxed out with four teams.
So, I applaud the rule but the rule also cost DiBenedetto a job too.
If DiBenedetto had a wealth of money, maybe this move doesn’t happen this way. It’s not like the team willingly didn’t renew DiBenedetto’s contract for merit. They would have loved to have him back – even in a second car. But, a second car cost money, money that LFR doesn’t have right now.
So, a proven driver with a good track record, especially for this year is left on the outside looking in. This is what’s wrong with racing in general right now. There are too many talented drivers that are being underpaid and/or free agents because they don’t bring money to a team.
Think about that.
Imagine if the New York Yankees went to Aaron Judge and said that we have a player who we feel is pretty talented through AAA and brings more money and exposure than you so we need to let you go and play him instead.
Imagine is the New England Patriots went to Tom Brady and said that we have a QB waiting in the wings and brings some money from Riddell (Helmet) and we have to house him somewhere and he’s taking your job.
I’m not saying Bell/Jones aren’t talented and not deserving of a Cup ride as they certainly are and I’m not saying DiBenedetto is Tom Brady, but this is what’s going on in racing right now.
That’s the business model in racing right now. It’s all about money, not skill and today’s announcement proved that.