If you’ve followed Twitter the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed the incredible support for the Go Fas Racing driver, Matt DiBenedetto.
Entering his fourth full-time season in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, DiBenedetto has raced for low budget teams making their way through the top level of the stock car series. While the No. 32 Ford Fusion holds a charter and is guaranteed to run in every race, the team found themselves in a difficult position with no sponsor to cover the weekend expenses at Phoenix.
After hard work researching sponsorship opportunities, DiBenedetto posted a video on Twitter the week of the race at ISM Speedway.
We hate doing this, but we are UNSPONSORED as of right now for @ISMRaceway this weekend! If you or anyone you know has the ability to help us connect with a business interested in coming on board this weekend please contact the @GoFasRacing32 page ASAP! pic.twitter.com/3hbFnTBBqI
— Matt DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) March 6, 2018
The news spread like wildfire.
Drivers Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, and retired driver and NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip, personally pitched in $5,000 each. DiBenedetto’s appeal spread across various social media platforms and eventually led to a single-race sponsorship from multiple fans and companies for Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway.
The gamble that paid off for the Go Fas Racing Ford resulted in the Zynga Poker online game securing a primary sponsorship for the weekend. Additionally, secondary and associate sponsorships included Enlisted Nine Fight Company, Pit Stops for Hope, and Waltrip Brothers Charity Championship.
DiBenedetto shared how they received additional funding to allow them to do more than they’ve been able to during a regular race weekend.
“Last weekend, we tried to save a set of tires for the race instead of using them in practice,” he said. “So now that we’re sponsored, maybe if we need to use an extra set in practice, we can afford to do that where otherwise we might need to conserve. Now we can afford better parts and pieces.”
One example of this at Auto Club Speedway was the ability to hire an extra crew member and have team lunches over the following few weeks, something that higher teams can take for granted and as a result, the Go Fas Racing crew got to enjoy meals together over the weekend without having to worry about finances.
DiBenedetto clarified later in the week Friday there was no danger of the team not showing for this weekend’s race activities but that it needed more financial input to move forward.
As the team visited California for the following weekend’s race, the Auto Club 400, I took some time to sit with DiBenedetto outside his hauler and ask him about his whole experience before the start of the race.
Justin Schuoler: Last weekend, you got some very unique sponsorship opportunities to jump on board with Go Fas Racing for Phoenix [ISM Raceway]. How long were you aware that the Phoenix race had no sponsor?
Matt DiBenedetto: All the way since the beginning of the season and we were working on it from the start of the season trying to sell it, and that was one that we just didn’t have any luck selling. We had quite a few gaps to fill throughout the year, and that just happened to be one of them.
JS: Roughly how many people reached out to you about sponsorship opportunities once you posted that on social media? Twitter kinda blew up when you put that video up on Twitter. You felt half bad, but it seemed like that was an opportunity you took advantage of and a lot of people jumped on that.
MD: Yeah, so probably with the drivers retweeting me, you know, [Kevin] Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Darrell Waltrip, and spreading the word, it probably got us well over 100 inquiries from different people. Ryan [Elllis] and I had to filter through to see what was potential and not, and it was a lot. We’re still behind actually now.
JS: That’s a good problem to have then!
JS: Who was the first to reach out to you within the NASCAR community about your situation?
MD: Denny [Hamlin]. He retweeted it and said he wanted to help out. He was the first one, and he is kinda responsible for starting the trends. Obviously, I have to thank all of them immensely for what they did, but yeah, Denny started it. And through Denny starting it, somebody he follows retweeted it, and then someone that follows them was the one that saw the message, Zynga Poker, and that got us the primary sponsor for last weekend. Denny was ultimately responsible for helping us a ton, and all of them for spreading the word and making it a big story.
JS: Besides finances, what all is involved with getting a sponsor to jump on board with a race team?
MD: You got to put the right partnerships together that makes sense for both ends. It’s gotta be beneficial for the sponsors, so that deal, in particular, is a good example. Zynga Poker reached out to us, said they were interested. We can give a lot of bang for the buck because we’re a smaller funded team. I’m lucky to have a really good, dedicated following, and I’m in the media a lot and things like that. We just try to be creative and out of the box. Their deal was pretty straightforward, so for Zynga Poker, we just wanted to get them as much exposure as possible. They’re a big company, they have many, many millions of downloads, so we just got them on board and through social media and the media stuff, it was a cool story and it gave them a lot of exposure, which is great, and gave us exposure too, so it worked out for both parties.
JS: Now on the flip side, have you ever had the opportunity to be on the other side of the situation with a fellow competitor?
MD: You know, I’ve tried to help some of my friends that race back at Hickory Motor Speedway, local levels, things like that, trying to put them together with some connections with some [Camping World] Truck Series owners or some people who may want to sponsor them. You know, it’s late models so it’s not quite as much money. See, it’s my fourth year in the [Monster Energy] Cup Series, so I’m still one of the newer guys, I guess, and still trying to build my resume and my career, and get to the top. But yeah, I’ve been able to be in a position to help some of those guys at a smaller level.
JS: Awesome, well what would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned from the entire experience from Phoenix?
MD: Just how close the whole NASCAR community is. That’s the biggest thing I took away, and it was pretty breathtaking.
JS: So your best career start here at Auto Club Speedway was 33rd back when you were with BK Racing, but today you got a little luck on your side with everyone failing pre-qualifying inspection. You’re starting 18th, so how does that feel?
MD: Yeah, that’s much better. I’ve had a really good race car in the past here a couple years ago. We were really fast in the race, but we never really had great qualifying efforts here, just couldn’t seem to get our stuff right. This time, we ended first practice in 22nd with everybody out on track, so our car had good speed for qualifying, and then obviously some people had some trouble getting through tech and that helped us even more. So starting 18th, it starts your day off a lot easier by knowing you have good track position so you’re not trying to run away from the leaders.
JS: One last question, do you have your camo socks ready for today?
MD: I don’t, actually! I had so much bad luck two years for a streak of races, like eight or 10 races in a row where we had horrible luck and every bit of it was out of my control, little weird things happening like running over debris that caused us some DNF’s. So I threw all my superstitions out the window, I got so frustrated.
About Zynga Poker: Zynga Poker offers a variety of options to play virtual and video poker. You can play on Facebook, or download the app from the Apple app store, Google Play store, Windows store, or Windows Phone store . If you like playing with friends, then head over to Facebook after you download, authenticate with your Facebook credentials, and enjoy the same smooth, authentic experience. The game feeds over 130 million hands of poker each day across all of their users. They also offer strategy tutorials to help buff your game to the next level.
About Matt DiBenedetto: Matt has received praises from many competitors, including retired Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. who called him “one of the most underrated drivers in the series.” He has raced in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series for four years with three career top-10 finishes, including a best career finish at Bristol in 2016 with a sixth-place result. He also has three career victories in the K&N Pro Series East. His average start and finish in the Cup series have steadily improved throughout his career. He was born and raised in California and lives in Hickory, North Carolina with his wife and childhood friend, Taylor.