One day after Kasey Kahne announced that he would start his retirement early, Leavine Family Racing announced what their 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series plans will be at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. On Wednesday afternoon, LFR announced that they not only will switch from Chevrolet power to Toyota in 2019, but they have also signed Matt DiBenedetto to drive the No. 95 Toyota next season as well. On top of all of that, in part of the new deal with Toyota, LFR will enter into a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing too.
DiBenedetto, 27 comes to LFR after four seasons in the Monster Energy Series driving for BK Racing and Go Fas Racing. The California native has always outkicked his coverage as he’s been far better than the rides he’s driven in. That’s why he took “a leap of faith” when he announced during the Brickyard weekend last month that he would leave GoFas Racing at seasons end and hope to find a better ride for his future.
That’s now happened.
“I can only begin to explain how fortunate I am to be joining LFR,” Matt DiBenedetto said in a team press release. “The thought of being reunited with Toyota and the folks at TRD is just unbelievable for me and my family. This is the biggest opportunity of my life and it’s a dream come true to be a part of a team that continues to elevate their program at the highest level of NASCAR.”
The move to a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing brings LFR into the Toyota stable just as Furniture Row Racing is departing at year’s end. Furniture Row had been with Toyota since the 2016 season.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Matt (DiBenedetto) to our organization,” said Bob Leavine, Owner of Leavine Family Racing, in a team press release. “We feel that he’s going to be a great addition to the team with his great personality and experience on track within the series. It’s a tremendous feeling to know that we’re also able to announce our alignment with JGR and TRD for next season as well. Obviously, they’re both first-class organizations and proven winners, so for us to be able to align with them is a huge step for our organization.
The involvement with JGR will also serve as a reunion of sorts for DiBenedetto, who was at one time a development driver for the organization. He made seven XFINITY Series starts for JGR in 2009-2010. He also won two races in the K&N Pro Series East driving a car owned by Joe Gibbs son’, J.D. Gibbs.
LFR was a Ford organization from its inception in 2011 until the end of the 2015 season. The company then shifted to Chevrolet with a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing for the past three seasons.
In eight seasons, the Bob Leavine-owned organization has fielded cars for David Starr, Scott Speed, Blake Koch, Scott Riggs, Reed Sorenson, Michael McDowell, Ty Dillon, Kasey Kahne and Regan Smith. McDowell’s and Kahne’s fourth-place finishes in the July Daytona races of 2017 and 2018, respectively, stand as the company’s best race results to date.
Kahne was the primary driver for the 2018 season before he sought treatment for heat exhaustion after the Darlington race, and Smith has filled in since then. In August, Kahne announced he was stepping away from full-time NASCAR racing, which opened up the No. 95 seat for the upcoming season.