USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Hembree previews the upcoming race at ISM Raceway. USA TODAY Sports
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Driver Matt DiBenedetto made an unusual appeal on social media for sponsorship assistance for his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team this week.
People responded. Important people.
Drivers Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick kicked in $5,000 each, as did retired driver and television analyst Darrell Waltrip. And publicity from DiBenedetto’s appeal spread across the social media landscape, eventually leading to a single-race sponsorship from the Zynga Poker online game for Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway.
The GO FAS Racing team for which DiBenedetto drives has a Cup Series charter, meaning the team automatically qualifies for every point race on the schedule. DiBenedetto said 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.
“We’re very fortunate this week, for sure,” he said. “We owe a lot to Denny Hamlin. He retweeted my video and said he wanted to jump on board. That spread it around, and Zynga Poker saw it and reached out. They said they were interested in sponsoring this weekend, and we talked and it was as simple as that.
“It all spread like wildfire. Our company is fine. We’re a very stable organization; we’re just very small and very underfunded. To have these drivers on board, it’s pretty amazing that they thought that much of me because I’ve looked up to those guys so much my whole life.”
The team is owned by Archie St. Hilaire and managed by his son, Mason. It is based in Mooresville, N.C.
DiBenedetto finished 27th at Daytona, 31st at Atlanta and 22nd at Las Vegas.
He said additional funding this weekend could allow the team to adjust its priorities.
“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.”
DiBenedetto was 28th fastest of 37 cars in Friday’s opening round of practice for the TicketGuardian 500.