Meet Matt.

Birthdate: July 27, 1991
Hometown: Grass Valley, CA
Current Residence: Hickory, NC
Wife: Taylor DiBenedetto

Many five-year-olds in California want to someday drive in the Sprint Cup Series, but thanks to grit and determination, Matt DiBenedetto was there at the finish line. Back in the 90's, Matt was just a young fan watching the likes of Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on television with his father, an appliance repairman.

The youngest of four, he was captivated, and before long, visions of victory lane propelled him into a kart of his own. Getting his start on dirt tracks, Matt surprised family and friends by being a natural behind the wheel. Checkered flags flew, followed by trophies. By the time his 12th birthday came around, Matt racked up five championships. It became clear to everyone around that Matt wasn't just a boy in love with speed. Rather, he was blessed with poise and other intangibles, and he had the chance to do something special.

So, Matt and his parents packed their bags and headed east to Hickory, NC, the heart of NASCAR country. The move brought new friends, connections, and opportunities, though the competition proved tough. What started as a hobby for Matt and the family soon required a high level of intensity and commitment. The DiBenedetto family faced a new challenge with countless other teams eager to prove themselves. They decided to fund the team on their own and that homegrown effort would culminate in Matt winning two more championships.

At 16, Matt began racing Limited Late Models at Hickory Motor Speedway, a short track where many NASCAR legends got their start. The wins continued, and Hickory Motor Speedway gave Matt exposure to NASCAR teams. With Matt still developing, his family bankrolled the team one last time as it continued in the UARA Stars Late Model Touring Series.

But just as the money ran out, things began to take off for Matt. He went on to race for another Late Model team at other tracks like Bristol and was invited to the MMI driver combine in 2008. The combine gave NASCAR teams a chance to review driving prospects, and Matt excelled. Joe Gibbs Racing was one of the teams watching that day, and they invited Matt for further tests and signed him to a development contract. With a simple piece of paper, dreams of NASCAR success were becoming a reality.

JGR secured a spot for Matt in the Camping World East Series, where Matt thrived while locking down two victories, three pole positions, and five Top 10 finishes. Just after he turned 18, excited by his prospects, the organization give Matt a shot in NASCAR's Nationwide Series at the 2009 Kroger On Track For The Cure 250 in Memphis, TN. Making his first appearance in the No. 20 Pizza Ranch Toyota, Matt raised eyebrows by qualifying in the Top 5 and finishing 14th. Immediately, it was clear that Matt could hold his own in the pack. He would drive the No. 20 Toyota for a handful of starts in 2010, earning himself two Top 10 finishes. Although his relationship with JGR ended, Matt returned to race a full season in 2011 in the K&N Pro Series East, while earning a win at the 2011 Army Strong 150 in Winston-Salem, N.C. and Top 5 finishes in the majority of the races that year.

But right as Matt was on the cusp of breaking into the big time, his momentum slowed and a full-time ride became hard to come by. Matt found himself mostly on the sidelines for the first time since he was a kid. He began making a new life for himself working in his father's body shop, fixing and trading cars.

But while racing then seemed like a lost cause, the toughness and fortitude that came to define Matt over the last decade kept him going. He drove for small Nationwide teams in 2012 and 2013, qualifying for races here and there, and keeping his name in the lineup, even if the cars weren't built to go the distance. It's what was known as a start-and-park, where small teams had the equipment to build a car strong enough to qualify, but lacked the resources to keep the car going more than a few laps and could survive on the prize money. The 2014 season also started that way for Matt, but that year, NASCAR created rules that changed how prize money was awarded and motivated teams to last longer in races. Suddenly, Matt was with a team that grew more competitive throughout the season. He also brought home two t-15 finishes by the end of the year.

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Sometimes the road is long, but in the end, hard work makes it even more worth it in the end. After three years of paying his dues, the opportunity Matt had been waiting for arrived. By taking start-and-park cars and qualifying them well, other teams took notice.  At the 2015 Coke Zero 400, Matt would check off another milestone by leading his first lap in the Sprint Cup Series.

The 2016 season would be a landmark season for both Matt. Matt had never even been to the Daytona 500 until he raced in it 2016, and it was a very special moment for him his family. From then on out, Matt consistently started races and finished them stronger and stronger.

2016 would also be the year that established Bristol as Matt's favorite track in the Sprint Cup Series circuit. Starting 30th, Matt's car progressively improved throughout the race. Bristol, more than other tracks, tests a driver's skill and endurance, and as the race wore on, Matt moved up the leaderboard. Veteran Crew Chief Gene Nead made an adjustment that turned a good car into a great one. Matt steadily climbed the ranks. When the race was done, Matt finished 6th, the highest finish in the Sprint Cup Series for himself. After the race, Matt celebrated the finish as a win for the team, and it introduced him to a wave of new fans.

That momentum has carried Mat onward as he settles into NASCAR's premier series and reaches for new heights. While only 25, years of competition have turned Matt into an elder statesman on the track. He's earned respect from other drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. who called him, "One of the most underrated drivers in the series."

Still humble by nature, Matt wears the same pair of camo socks every race, and he is an avid golfer, gun enthusiast, and cook in his free time. He lives in Hickory with his wife Taylor. He has two sisters and a brother, Austin, in the Air Force, supporting him along the way.

And after two decades of racing, there's another green flag waving for the kid from California.

He's just getting started.

Matt with crowd