Frank Bennedetto was a good man who risked it all for his friends... well, at least according to his self-professed ‘col-o-nel’, Homestar Runner. To the untrained observer, he seemed a bit more like... well, a popcorn machine. Sadly, he was lost in the Battle of Strong Badia, a failed invasion attempt thwarted by the local population expressing disinterest in favor of a game of Badminton and kicking Frank over, to his apparent immediate demise.
Okay, so that was a scene from a cartoon, but it’s important later.
In 2016, I’d just gotten back into watching NASCAR after a long time off. I’d become fatigued by everything from the racing to the announcers to the sheer amount of product placement. But I had a lot of free time in 2016 and newfound access to sports channels, so I figured I’d tune back in again. I started watching with my family again, as well, most of whom had tuned out over the years, as well, so none of us really had a favorite. I gravitated right towards the #24, because sure, why not.
Who I really ended up paying attention to in terms of teams, though, wasn’t Hendrick Motorsports, or Chip Ganassi Racing, or even Stewart-Haas (well, until Sonoma, anyways). It was a familiar outfit called BK Racing.
A long while back, I’d really loved that team’s matching paint schemes; they fielded the #83 and #93, with identical liveries except one was red and the other was blue. Now it was a whole different assortment, with them also running the #23 car. BK Racing is, well... not a top-tier team. A lot of drivers cycle through their ranks as they’re a good way to get your foot in the door, proverbially speaking, to the Cup Series. But usually, it’s not going to be an easy time for you in those rides, and even if it somehow is, that relative inexperience among their drivers means they’ve become rather infamous for being the cause of cautions and crashes.
And thus, any time Matt DiBenedetto, one of the BK Racing drivers, would slip back, bump into something, or generally have something go badly, I would snicker and say “DiBenedetto, nooooo!” in an imitation of Homestar Runner’s mournful cry over the fallen popcorn machine of a similar name.
But as the season continued, that changed. I still kept saying that, but it wasn’t long before the tone stopped being mocking. Every week, I was watching this guy do pretty okay before some kind of curveball put him out of contention. Eventually, I just wanted things to go okay for him. Just once! He kept trying, he kept giving his all, and it just wasn’t working out, so... I couldn’t help but root for him, y’know?
So at Bristol Motor Speedway (where drivers get to pick their own intro music), he finally went from earning my attention to earning my respect when he strutted out to ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man”.
And then he cemented that respect when he placed sixth.
This is the 2016 Sprint Cup #83 Toyota Camry that he drove hard that day. Or, well, obviously a 1/64 replica, but... anyhoo. This is from Lionel Racing, the current official holder of the NASCAR diecast license. This is absolutely meant as a collectible, so it’s got some really excellent detail; just about every contingency decal, the sponsored gas cap, Guido on the name rail (as he had it on all his rides that season), and most prominently, the Cosmo Motors logos all over.
Cosmo Motors is a luxury car dealer that’s sponsored DiBenedetto’s Cup cars... and, notably, only DiBenedetto’s. Matt moved to Go Fas Racing for the 2017 season, and Cosmo came with; they’re friends and business partners from the same town. In my opinion, whether on the #83 or the #32, it’s one of the most striking and smooth designs on the Cup roster.
The underside of the car is nicely detailed in case of blowover, fall-over, or sneaking-your-parent’s-adult-collectibles-into-your-Criss-Cross-Crash-set-because-you’re-eight-and-clearly-it’s-a-toy-car. (Not that I ever did that way back when. Ahem.) These undersides are identical across all the Gen6 (2013 onwards) Cup cars as far as I can tell.
As far as the body shape goes, an extra reminder that it’s the 2016 car comes in the rounded nose up front, which was changed on the Camry to be more fierce and jaggedy to match the road car in the next season. (This also was the last year of the Sprint Cup branding.)
This wasn’t DiBenedetto’s only ride for 2016; he stayed with BK Racing, but was swapped around between the #93, #83, and even the #49 (as a one-off since NASCAR Heat Evolution had dropped their price to $49.99; I totally would want that but no official diecast was made of it, to my knowledge). This is, however, the car that comes straight to mind for me when I think about that season, the one that he made a major career breakthrough in, and the one that made me a fan of his.