Today’s Wood Brothers Racing preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, starting with new chartered teams then ranked in reverse order of best finish in last year’s owner standings.
WOOD BROTHERS RACING
Engine: Roush Yates Engines
Driver-crew chief pairings: Matt DiBenedetto- Greg Erwin (No. 21)
What’s new: A brand-new driver … a year from now. Toward the end of the season and with no contract in place for incumbent driver Matt DiBenedetto as late as the first week of October, the writing on the wall was starting to indicate soon-to-be Xfinity Series champ Austin Cindric would slide into the famed No. 21 Ford. He will, but not until the start of the 2022 season. The team elected to bring back the fan-favorite DiBenedetto at the last minute, maintaining the driver-crew chief combo with veteran Greg Erwin calling the shots atop the pit box f0r 2021.
Team outlook: In terms of single-car teams, Wood Brothers is certainly the organization to beat for the time being. Still in search of that elusive 100th team win, WBR has the equipment to get it done and, you’d think, the driver to do so. DiBenedetto has shown at times to be capable of battling the sport’s best down to the wire for a victory; it’s only a matter of time before he closes the deal and picks up his first career victory.
Racing Insights’ stats break: DiBenedetto has one year left in the No. 21 to get the team its 100th Cup win. After a career year in which he made the playoffs for the first time (and took the Wood Brothers to just its second playoff appearance ever) and finishing runner-up twice, DiBenedetto looks to prove he is more than just a fan favorite by getting a win.
Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Ford
Experience: Seventh full season in NASCAR Cup Series (33 starts in 2015; 35 in ’16)
2020 stats: 13th in final standings; 0 wins, 3 top fives, 11 top 10s
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: 13th
2021 championship odds: 50-1
No. 21 history: See most memorable drivers
Outlook: To be honest, it was a little surprising to see DiBenedetto wind up with a zero in the win column in 2020, given his momentum as a preseason dark-horse pick and the organization’s strong alliance with Team Penske — which scored eight wins among its three drivers. After spending the previous year with a different organization and manufacturer, perhaps it can be chalked up to the lack of practice laps and general face-to-face time with his new comrades due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, he did score a runner-up finish in the second race of the season before things went haywire. Still fighting for a job for 2022, a return to the playoffs seems like a foregone conclusion for a continually improving DiBenedetto, and a win — or two — feels completely reasonable, if not expected.
NASCAR.com 2021 team previews schedule
Jan. 18: 23XI Racing
Jan. 19: Trackhouse Racing Team
Jan. 20: Live Fast Motorsports
Jan. 21: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 22: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 25: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 26: Richard Petty Motorsports
Jan. 27: Roush Fenway Racing
Jan. 28: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 29: Richard Childress Racing
Jan. 30: Non-chartered and teams outside the top 30
Feb. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing
Feb. 2: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 3: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 4: Team Penske
Feb. 5: Hendrick Motorsports