WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Madhouse lived up to its nickname on Saturday night.
Matt DiBenedetto and Corey LaJoie waged a fierce battle over the closing laps of the Army Strong 150, with DiBenedetto emerging with the first Bowman Gray Stadium victory in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East history.
DiBenedetto led all 156 laps in the overtime event, but it wasn't as easy as it looked on paper.
"Honestly, I felt like there was a heck of a lot of luck on our side. That's what it took for anybody out here tonight," DiBenedetto said.
"We were just fighting like crazy. (LaJoie) did a really good job racing me really hard and not doing anything to wreck both of us. It was a good points day for both of us. We raced hard – beating and banging a lot – and the right side is tore off our car, but we're really excited about it."
LaJoie's second-place run matched his career-best finish in the series. He finished second at Dover International Speedway last September.
"I can't complain," LaJoie said of the battle with DiBenedetto, which got physical without crossing any lines. "It's a tight little quarter-mile track that Legends cars are tight on. You're going to get together, you're going to hit fenders, you're going to tear some tails off."
Ben Kennedy, the grandson of Bill France Jr., was third for his best-career finish. Max Gresham and DJ Shaw rounded out the Top-5.
DiBenedetto got to work early on in the event – taking the lead from teammate and polesitter Coleman Pressley before the race was a half-lap old.
"On the initial start, it was just about getting the lead early," said DiBenedetto, who now has three career victories. "I pinched Coleman down as much as possible to get the lead. That's what it was all about – getting the lead early and staying out front.
"Of course, we had an excellent car."
And even if that car had a few bumps and bruises, DiBenedetto was happy to live with them.
"You can't carry tempers off the race track when you come to a quarter-mile bullring," DiBenedetto said. "You've got to know going in what to expect. It was just short-rack racing, and I think we made it an interesting show for the fans."