Grass Valley native joins 10-race chase for NASCAR Cup Series championship

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(KTXL) — A Grass Valley native raced his way past the chaos of two late wrecks at Daytona Saturday night, punching the last of 16 tickets to NASCAR’s 10-race chase for the Cup Series Championship. 

For racer Matt DiBenedetto, his career has been all about overcoming long odds. 

“That was enough stress for an entire year combined right there,” DiBenedetto told FOX40. “I don’t want to do it again, that’s for sure. It was wild, man. You couldn’t have scripted that race being any crazier than it ended up being.”

The odds of him making the chase though weren’t nearly as long as DiBenedetto making it to the Cup Series in the first place. 

When he was just 12 years old, he and his parents left their home in Grass Valley and moved to North Carolina to chase a dream. 

“Leaving family across the country, moving, trying to pursue this dream of being one of 40 in the world. It’s crazy when you think of everything we sacrificed to try and do this,” Dibenedetto said. 

DiBenedetto’s two older sisters, Katie Kimbrel and Kelly Hackney, might be across the county but that hasn’t stopped them from being his biggest supporters. 

“I truly believe this is the beginning where it starts to get even more amazing for him,” Kimbrel said.

We babysat Matt a lot, so I guess you know, he can thank us for the person he is today,Hackney said with laughter.

“He didn’t go out in high school or with his friends on weekends. He committed to a passion and it just sparked early on. He had the parents and the family behind him,” Kimbrel said.

It’s something DiBenedetto acknowledges. 

“My sisters, my whole entire family supported and still support to this day to a level that is heartwarming,” DiBenedetto said. 

And for the next 10 weeks, through the playoffs, they’ll have one more reason to cheer on their younger brother. 

Just don’t try to get ahold of them on race day though. 

When it’s race day, it’s race day,” Hackney said.

“Yeah, you don’t call during those hours. No, we don’t talk during those hours,” Kimbrel said.

The first NASCAR playoff race for DiBenedetto is on Sunday in Darlington, South Carolina. 

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