Faith on the Frontstretch: Matt DiBenedetto and Erik Jones Shed Tears at Bristol

Erik Jones fist pumps in celebration after winning the Xfinity race at Bristol on April 16, 2016.
Credit: Robert Laberge / Getty Images  
by Beth Reinke

“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” ~ Hebrews 12:1b

The Bristol race was full of costume changes for driver Matt DiBenedetto, as he wore a rock star get-up, spray streamers and tears of joy -- all in one day.

For driver introductions, DiBenedetto sported a long gray-blonde beard and an electric guitar as he rocked the catwalk to “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top. When he arrived home that night after the race, neighbors were waiting outside to celebrate and sprayed him with Silly String® amidst cheers and whistles.

But the best part of his day came in between, when he finished sixth in the Food City 500. DiBenedetto drives the No. 83 for BK Racing, one of the smaller teams in the Sprint Cup garage. To finish just outside the top five for the first time in his Cup career was a huge deal for the 24-year-old driver.

“That’s unbelievable for a team like to us to be growing this much and for us to get a sixth-place run,” he said. “I’m sorry I’m so emotional. It’s just this is like a win for us. I am so excited!” he stated as he blinked back tears during his post-race interview on FOX.

“I see my family back here – my wife, Taylor, my brother is in town from the military and I’m so glad he got to experience this. This is just, this is incredible. I’m so blessed to be here.”

Race winner Carl Edwards was impressed with DiBenedetto’s finish, too.

“They finished sixth? Man, that's unbelievable,” Edwards said. “That's probably tougher than what we did. That's a real testament to them.”

DiBenedetto’s emotional interview marked the second time tears were shed by a driver at Bristol in as many days. Erik Jones won the Xfinity series race on Saturday, as well as the Dash4Cash bonus of $100,000. The TV broadcast showed him wiping his eyes in Victory Lane as he spoke to his mom and dad on the phone.

Though he was thrilled about the win, the tears were bittersweet because of the reason his parents weren’t trackside for the win.

“My Dad, I figure we need to announce it at some time, but he got diagnosed with cancer about a month ago,” Jones said in his post-race press conference. “He’s going through treatment now, and he’s missed the last few weeks. Just pretty emotional. It was the first race I’ve won that they haven’t been here for and hard to hold the emotions back for that one.”

DiBenedetto shed tears of joy. Jones cried happy tears mingled with sad ones, as emotions sometimes blend into one another in complicated situations.

A grown man unashamedly shedding victory tears is a beautiful thing, because our emotions are a gift from God. Whether you’re a man or woman, grown-up or child, there’s no need to hide your joyful emotions. God designed us to express ourselves, and He knows our feelings can sometimes overwhelm us.

Like a NASCAR driver celebrates by doing a burnout, waving the checkered flag and shouting “Wooooooo!” over the radio, we can celebrate our joyful times, too. And one of the best ways to use our God-given emotions is to direct them heavenward -- in praise, prayer and singing.

If you believe in Jesus as your Savior, you have reason to celebrate a victory that transcends anything this earthly life has to offer. Go ahead – shout your joy, sing God’s praises and cry happy tears. Wooooooo!

May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.             ~ Psalm 20:5a (NLT)

“Faith on the Frontstretch” explores the role of faith in motorsports and runs every 1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month during the NASCAR season. Follow Beth on twitter at @bbreinke.

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans. Or you can purchase the book in paperback & ebook here.
Faith on the Frontstretch: Matt DiBenedetto and Erik Jones Shed Tears at Bristol Faith on the Frontstretch: Matt DiBenedetto and Erik Jones Shed Tears at Bristol Reviewed by Beth Reinke on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 Rating: 5