The rumours and speculations of what various drivers will do in the coming season is known as Silly Season in the world of NASCAR. Last week Silly Season got a bit muddier when after much speculation, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones signed an extension to his contract with JGR.
Today, two more pieces of the Silly Season puzzle fell into place when Wood Brothers Racing announced that the driver of their number 21 car Paul Menard would not return to drive with the team next season.
Earlier this season it was announced that Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto would not be returning to the number 95 car. Since that announcement, much has been said about Matty D”s future. That future was secured for next season when after stating that Menard would be stepping away from full time racing, Wood Brothers announced that Matt DiBenedetto would become a part of Wood Brothers racing and drive the number 21 car next season.
The father of two small children, Paul Menard gave the same reason many drivers do for stepping away from the sport full time – family.
Speaking on his decision, the 39 year old Menard said, “the way I look at it there’s still 26 years before I can get my AARP card, so I’ll stay pretty busy doing things. First and foremost, I need to be a good dad, good husband. Outside of that are a lot of opportunities. Obviously we have a great company (Menards) up in Wisconsin that’s growing and vibrant.”
“I’m not done racing yet, trying to figure out what the next step is for sure, but it’s not going to be 38 races a year, I can tell you that.’’
According to Wood Brothers co-owner Ed Wood, it was Menard himself who recommended DiBenedetto when he announced to Wood Brothers that he was stepping away from the team; adding that securing DiBenedetto as the new drivers was the only direction Wood Brothers looked.
DiBenedetto called the phone call from Wood Brothers, “a dream-come-true phone call and I was basically all-in on the opportunity.” He added, “they could have called me at two in the morning to meet with them and I would have been there immediately. This is the best opportunity of my life and I think we can all build something great for years to come.’’