Leavine Family Racing officials announced Matt DiBenedetto as driver of the organization’s No. 95 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series entry for 2019 on Wednesday, as well as a move to Toyota after a three-year association with Chevrolet.
DiBenedetto, 27, is in his fourth full season of Cup competition. He currently drives the No. 32 Ford fielded by Go FAS Racing, operated by Archie St. Hilaire. DiBenedetto, a native of Grass Valley, Calif., has four top-10 finishes in 134 career starts.
Kasey Kahne, LFR’s driver when the season began, announced in August that he was stepping away from full-time competition in NASCAR’s top series. Barely a week later, he announced he was stepping out of the ride due to dehydration issues that had begun to impact his ability to compete. Former driver Regan Smith has filled in during Kahne’s absence and on Wednesday, team owner Bob Levine said Smith would remain in the car for the remainder of the ’18 season.
Likewise, DiBenedetto will finish out his season in the No. 32 entry. He too had previously announced he would not return to the team next year.
The No. 95 entry is 25th in owner points heading into this weekend’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway; the No. 32 entry sits 31st.
The switch to Toyota affords the opportunity for LFR to align with Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota Racing Development (TRD). JGR fields entries for Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones.
JGR has a technical alliance with Furniture Row Racing, which won the 2017 series championship with driver Martin Truex Jr., but FRR owner Barney Visser announced earlier this year that he was shutting the team down at season’s end due to a lack of sponsorship and escalating costs associated with the alliance.
No changes in sponsorship for LFR were announced Wednesday. The team currently obtains a majority of its funding from Procore, a California-based software company involved in the construction business.
In a release announcing the ’19 plans, team owner Bob Leavine called DiBenedetto “a great addition” and described JGR and TRD as “first-class organizations and proven winners.”
“For us to be able to align with them is a huge step for our organization,” Leavine said.
LFR debuted in 2011, competing in four Cup races with driver David Starr. It has run the full schedule for the past three seasons. Top finishes for the team have been a pair of fourths – one by former LFR driver Michael McDowell at Daytona in 2017 and one by Kahne, also at Daytona, this past July.