September and October is the time when NASCAR teams finalize their drivers and plans for the following season. On Tuesday the Wood Brothers announced theirs for 2020.

Wood Brothers’ driver Paul Menard announced he will be retiring from full-time racing at the end of this season, the team announced via Twitter Tuesday morning. Driver Matt DiBenedetto will take Menard’s spot in the No. 21 car for next season.

Menard joined the Wood Brothers prior to the start of the 2018 season, and has one top-5 and 11 top-10 finished in 112 races over that span, as well as one pole win at Chicagoland Speedway in 2018. Menard has yet to crack the top 5 in a race this season.

The team said Menard would be stepping away from full-time competition to spend more time with his family.

“I’ve enjoyed every moment of my career racing in the NASCAR Cup Series and I’m so thankful for all the great memories and friendships I’ve made through this sport, but I’m looking forward to spending more time at home with my wife, Jennifer, and our two young children while moving forward with the next chapter of my life,” Menard said in a release from the team. “I want to thank everyone at Wood Brothers Racing... and Glen and Leonard Wood. I’m excited for what the future holds and I’m looking forward to sharing the plans for 2020 and beyond in the coming weeks.”

The Wood Brothers on Twitter said team president Eddie Wood said the team was “rebuilding” in 2018 after losing former driver Ryan Blaney to Team Penske, and Menard, as a veteran with experience, helped get that rebuild going.

Menard told reporters earlier this season he had a contract with the Wood Brothers for 2020, but he said Tuesday he was just choosing not to use it, preferring to retire instead.

He said Tuesday he was not done with racing completely, he just didn’t want to run a full Cup Series schedule. He said his plans for next season will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Wood Brothers said DiBenedetto was the first choice to replace Menard. They asked Menard who he thought should be his replacement, and he suggested DiBenedetto, who has been driving full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series for five seasons, and is having the best year of his career. The 28-year-old has three top-5 finishes this season, all coming in the last 11 races. He never had a top-5 finish in any season prior to 2019.

“He was the obvious and only choice,” The Wood Brothers said on Twitter. “Most things drag on forever but this one fell together super quick.”

{span}DiBenedetto signed a one year deal with the team. He is currently driving for Leavine Family Racing, but was told by LVR in August that he would not be brought back for the 2020 season.{/span}

“I am so excited about this opportunity to race for one of the most successful teams in NASCAR history beginning in 2020,” DiBenedetto said in a release from the Wood Brothers. “The No. 21 Ford is one of the most accomplished and iconic cars in our sport and it will be an honor to join Wood Brothers Racing and help carry on the team’s tradition of success in NASCAR. I want to thank Eddie and Len Wood, Kim Wood Hall, Menards, Edsel Ford and Ford Motor Company for this opportunity.”

The Wood Brothers are NASCAR’s longest runner team, dating back to 1950. The team has 99 career wins in the NASCAR Cup Series, the most recent in 2017 when Blaney won at Pocono.

“We want to thank Paul Menard for his dedication to the team over the last two seasons. We’re looking forward to a strong finish to 2019 and we wish him nothing but the best for the future,” said team President and Co-Owner Eddie Wood. “All of us at Wood Brothers Racing are excited to welcome Matt DiBenedetto to the team beginning next season. Matt has shown a lot of promise on track and everyone has seen it in his results this season, especially over the past several months. We want to continue to build on that success together as we gear up for 2020 and the future of Wood Brothers Racing.”

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

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