DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — A California native, and rising star in the Joe Gibbs Racing development program, Matt DiBenedetto will return to The Golden State for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, Jan. 29-30 at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.).
"I’ve never been there, only watched it on TV, so I’m really looking forward to turning some laps. I’m also excited to get to race in my home state, and in front of a bunch of my family members. "— Matt DiBenedetto
Originally from Grass Valley, Calif., DiBenedetto burst onto the scene in 2009 as a consistent frontrunner in NASCAR Camping World Series East action. Although he competed in just seven of the season’s 11 events, DiBenedetto piloted the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Driven Toyota to a pair of wins, five top 10s and a 14th-place finish in the final standings. The 18-year-old rookie was also impressive in his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut last fall in Memphis when he qualified fifth and finished 14th.
The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown will be the first time that DiBenedetto turns a lap around Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
“I’m really looking forward to racing at Irwindale for the Showdown. It’s an awesome track and has multiple grooves which will make for some great racing,” said DiBenedetto, who will be behind the wheel of the No. 98 Toyota fielded by car owner Mike Curb. “I’ve never been there, only watched it on TV, so I’m really looking forward to turning some laps. I’m also excited to get to race in my home state, and in front of a bunch of my family members. I want to thank Mike Curb and Joe Gibbs Racing for making this race possible.”
“We are thrilled with the opportunity to help Matt,” Curb said. “He is a true talent with a very bright future.”
The seventh running of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, which brings together the top racers from across North America for the ”Daytona 500 of short-track racing,” will be highlighted by the 225-lap Camping World Series all-star race. Each race winner during the 2009 Camping World Series season is eligible for a protected starting spot, as are the 2009 champions from each of NASCAR’s six regional touring series and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion.
DiBenedetto’s rookie campaign was highlighted by wins at Tri-County Motor Speedway and the June race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The 18-year-old earned poles in his first road-course races at Watkins Glen International and Lime Rock Park, and shattered the series’ qualifying record in the season finale at Dover International Speedway, which earned him the season Coors Light Pole Award. Despite not competing in four races, DiBenedetto also earned the series’ Wix Lap Leader Award.
“2009 was a great season for me. I won a couple races and I was able to get my feet wet with the Joe Gibbs Racing guys,” DiBenedetto said. “It also allowed me to get my first Nationwide race under my belt. I’m really looking forward to the 2010 season in the NASCAR Camping World Series East.”
In addition to eligible 2009 race winners and series champions, the starting lineup will be determined through time trials, limited provisionals for Camping World Series regulars, and the last-chance "Open" race that provides drivers one final chance to make the grid.
The 2010 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown schedule also includes 100-lap Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model and 75-lap Late Model races. Both nights of racing will air live on SPEED.