Matt DiBenedetto made getting around the tight oval at historic Bowman Gray Stadium look easy.
The 19-year-old from Grass Valley, Calif., led every lap of the Army Strong 150 Saturday night en route to his first win of 2011 and third of his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East career.
DiBenedetto started on the outside pole alongside Coleman Pressley and was able to out-duel his teammate on the first lap.
“It was a blessing to get out in front there and lead from the start,” DiBenedetto said. “That’s what I was wanting to do, but I didn’t think it would work from the outside.”
From there he was able to hold down the inside line through numerous restarts and come away with the victory.
“I was really focused on treating every restart like it was green-white-checker because if I would have lost that position and gone back to second, I felt like that would have just been the race, DiBenedetto said”
Corey LaJoie briefly moved in front DiBenedetto in the closing stages of the race, but was never able to officially take the lead and settled for second on the green-white-checkered finish. The runner-up effort tied LaJoie’s career best.
“Saving your brakes, saving your fenders and saving your tires was huge, but the biggest thing was track position,” LaJoie said. “We got stuck on the high side and I tried to make the most out of it but the 15 [DiBenedetto] held the bottom a little bit better than us.”
Rookie Ben Kennedy, the grandson of Bill France Jr., earned his career-best finish in third. Max Gresham and D.J. Shaw were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Darrell Wallace Jr., Chad Finchum, Cody Hodgson, Chad Boat and Ryan Gifford rounded out the top 10. It marked the best finish to-date for rookies Finchum, Hodgson and Boat.
Wallace, who started at the rear due to unapproved adjustments following Friday’s post-qualifying impound, took over the points lead from Brett Moffitt, who finished 16th and dropped to fourth. Wallace leads DiBenedetto by 17, Gresham by 30, and Moffitt by 34.
Moffitt was running third when he was involved in an incident on Lap 110 and had to rally to salvage 16th place.
Friday night’s pole winner, Pressley ran at the front with DiBenedetto through the first two-thirds of the race, but a cut tire forced him to pit and he was later involved in an accident and relegated to a 22nd-place finish.
DiBenedetto delivered the first win for X Team Racing in his No. 15 Gear Wrench Toyota. A newcomer to the series in 2011, X Team’s three-car effort has now netted 10 top-10 finishes through the season’s first five races. His career wins have come at each of the three types of tracks the series currently competes at: a bullring (Bowman Gray), a short track (Tri-County) and a speedway (New Hampshire).
Saturday's Army Strong 150 was the first for the K&N Pro Series East at the venerable quarter-mile that is steeped in NASCAR history, and just the second stand-alone event in the state of North Carolina in the series’ 25 years of competition.
The race also marked the first for the series at a quarter-mile oval since 2003. The tight confines produced a season-high 15 cautions for 87 laps, but 15 of the 27 starters finished on the lead lap and only six were not running at the end.
The Army Strong 150 will air on SPEED on Thursday, June 9 at 6 p.m.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returns to the track Saturday, June 11 for the Slack Auto Parts 150 at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga.