This has been one of those weeks leading up to a race that many saw the writing on the wall, but you cannot help but feel horrible at the same time.
The news from the Penske organization that is seeing changes heading into the new season may be looking ahead at the future, but it also is gut-wrenching for the current product. Much like when the rumor about Carl Edwards going from Roush to Gibbs was not exactly a surprising secret, one that almost everyone could see long before the official announcement, there has been no secret that it seemed the time for Brad Keselowski at Penske was drawing to a close.
It’s clear to everyone that Keselowski is on the move, and most likely going to Roush as an owner-driver. Trying to hide it at this point is useless, as we all know this is going to happen.
The hardest part of this entire deal is seeing a very popular guy with his competitors and the media now again having to fall back and figure out what he’s going to do in 2022. Austin Cindric is heading to the No. 2, but then the addition of Harrison Burton into the Wood Brothers No. 21, an affiliate of Penske, again leaves Matt DiBenedetto on the outside looking in, something he’s almost used to at this point.
From GoFas to Levine, to the Wood Brothers, he’s always seemed to find his spot in this series, but now the waters are murky and even he isn’t sure where he’s going next.
Here’s a guy who literally says he’s racing for his livelihood, and he doesn’t hide his emotions. This is a guy who knows nothing except racing, and racing well. When he finished second two years ago at Bristol, after leading all those laps late, you could tell the loss hurt him. It almost felt like Hamlin hurt more winning the race and taking the victory away, but the respect shown afterwards was the proof that DiBenedetto really was one of the guys in the garage that everyone enjoyed being around.
Now he’s at the point where he’s having to once again audition for a ride every single week.
New Hampshire is considered the “Magic Mile” and at this moment the driver of the No. 21 needs a little magic in his career so he finds out where he is going to land.
Maybe that magic can come in the form of a victory that will put him in the playoffs. Spots are nearly full and at this point, the only way for a guaranteed spot in the playoffs will be a victory. DiBenedetto has been so close on so many occasions, and he truly wants to get the Wood Brothers their 100th victory in Cup competition. He doesn’t want that to fall to Burton when he takes over next season; he wants No. 100 attached to his name, and he has been so close. It is coming, as to how he gets it is undetermined.
New Hampshire has been a decent track for Penske and his affiliates, as they are the defending winners of this race.
Someone is bound to find some magic at this track, so let’s dust off this race and see who is taking home the bacon, or as is tradition at this place, taking home the lobster.