Leavine Family Racing will undergo a pair of significant changes for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
The first is a long-rumored switch to Toyota and a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. The other the addition of veteran overachiever Matt DiBenedetto as driver of the No. 95 Camry.
The move comes after months of speculation that the Bob Leavine owned team would switch to Toyota. It was formally presented to the media on Wednesday afternoon at the NASCAR Hall of Fame during a press conference with Leavine, DiBenedetto and Toyota Racing Development president and general manager David Wilson.
Toyota will build the team’s engines and provide technology, data and technical assistance.
DiBenedetto is in his fourth Cup Series season and has spent the past two seasons at Go Fas Racing as the driver of the No. 32. Before that, he drove for BK Racing. He once took that team to a sixth-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Before that, he was a development driver for Gibbs, and this moment represents a type of full-circle moment for the 27-year-old.
"I can only begin to explain how fortunate I am to be joining LFR," DiBenedetto said. "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.
"No words can describe my gratitude to everyone who believes in me. I’ve had to fight so hard, the old school way, to get here and that will always make me appreciate this amazing opportunity. When I got the phone call from Bob (Leavine) and Jeremy (Lange, LFR General Manager) I was speechless. My wife and I both had tears of joy and it was a very emotional moment that we will always cherish. I look forward to making everyone proud next year, working day and night with my team to show people what we are made of."
DiBenedetto recently made the decision to leave Go Fas, expressing a willingness to leave a funded ride that paid him to drive in exchange for landing somewhere that could allow him to compete for wins.
He believes Leavine’s team with Toyota is one step closer to the front of the field.
"We’re thrilled to welcome Matt to our organization," said Bob Leavine, Owner of Leavine Family Racing. "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. I’m excited as we continue to work ahead for 2019 thanks to getting Matt as our driver and Toyota as our manufacturer."
Kasey Kahne joined the team for the 2017 season but was besieged by poor performance and the intensification of a puzzling medical issue that left him dehydrated and fatigued in the second-half of longer races.
Regan Smith will complete the season for LFR after taking over for Kahne at the Brickyard 400.
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