May 9th 2017 by MattDiBenedetto • 15 Questions • 1113 Points
My short bio: I am riding the favorite, Classic Empire, in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 6, at Churchill Downs. Since starting my riding career in 2005 after coming to the U.S. from France, I have won more than 2,300 races and $139-million in purses but never the Kentucky Derby. I will answer questions at noon ET (9a PT) on Tuesday, May 2!
Hey DiBuritto! Love it when you stop by /r/NASCAR.
A few years ago in 2015 during a rain delay at Bristol you said you wish you could "marry" Bristol Motor Speedway; as you were having a good race that night. And then a year later at Bristol in 2016, you had an even better race got a career best finish of 6th. Sparking an emotional post-race interview, the creation of your reddit presence, a TON of fan support (especially over on /r/NASCAR), recognition from everyone around the NASCAR garage, and now in 2017 you're with a new team to which you scored a top 10 in the Daytona 500! So my question is a simple one; do you still want to marry Bristol? It seems like the track has done a lot for you in the past few years.
I wish you the best of luck in following in the footsteps of /u/dogedriver in representing Reddit as best as you can in the All-Star race!
Fan vote portal for those who want to vote for Matt or your favorite fan vote eligible driver.
Thanks for responding.
Thank you! It has been overwhelming to see how much my fan base has grown and all the folks on Reddit are so dedicated!
And yes, I would still like to marry Bristol! It has been great to me over the years and helps us small teams run better than normal!
PinchBetter: Carina Mia is supposed to run her first race back since Breeders' Cup. I'm also in the Kentucky Oaks with Daddy's Lil Darling -JL
Other than Classic Empire in the Derby, who else are you excited about riding this weekend?
I've always wondered, when you are taking a turn at speed - do you relax and let the belts hold you in place or do you use your core muscle group to try and fight the centripetal force?
Interesting question: honestly you are so strapped in and supported by the seat and belts that you don't hardly move at all. It all keeps you perfectly in place through the G forces!
From yesterday: "I ride since I'm 6, currently 19. I've never had a scary experience with horses, but I'm so afraid of speed that I don't ride horses that aren't "safe". It's really difficult for me to have trust in a horse, and obviously it shouldn't. Have you got any advice on how to manage speed when something bad happens, or when the horse is scared?"
The main thing is to trust your horse and have faith in him, and you'll lose the fear naturally. Trust your horse to gain his trust. -JL
Thanks for the AMA Matt!
2 questions for you:
If you weren't a race car driver, what occupation would you have?
With so many people cord cutting and moving toward streaming services, would NASCAR benefit from moving to dedicated independent live streams, or a dedicated service such as what the WWE does with their live network?
1) that is a great question! I would probably do something on TV because I love interacting with folks and I enjoy public speaking
2) I haven't thought of that but I think that is a direction that would be beneficial!
Ruddiver: It's more about how the horse will perform that day. Now I have more experience in the race, so I'm not as nervous as I was earlier in my career. -JL
Do you feel more pressure being the favorite? or is it all about how the horse performs that you worry about?
Have you sent your resume to Rick Hendrick yet? I hear they may have a job opening next year.
You bet I have!! We should get everyone on Reddit to flood Hendrick with mail requesting me to take over the 88 haha
@Runs_n_goses: A little bit, but not too too much. Not in a race. Florent Geroux and I like to mess with each other but not anyone else. It's a friendly rivalry. -JL
How much trash talking is there in the jockey lounge area before races? Also, any trash talking happen during the race?
What is your first memory that involves racing?
Also, what's you favorite movie?
I remember my dad passing by NASCAR on TV and I made him go back to it and watch the whole race when I was five years old and nobody in my family had ever watched it in their lives
PAdogooder: Not really yet but feel like I will when my son is growing up -JL
Julien! You're my favorite jockey and I will often bet a horse just because you're on him- Louisville native here.
Question: do you ever ride horseback in other styles or for fun? Trail riding or jumping?
Probably an odd question, but asking anyway: Some people would consider you an expert in managing fear. Based on what you've learned about that very issue, what advice would you have for those of us that don't drive NASCAR (!), to manage our own day-to-day fears?
Honestly, I think is racers are just complete adrenaline junkies and we are borderline insane when we put a helmet on! In normal life situations I'm not that way haha
kocomma: Top 10 jockeys get best opportunities to ride better horses, but it's also the top jockeys make less mistakes on big day racing -JL
What makes the difference between the top jockeys (e.g. top 10 money earners) and the rest? What do you do differently in a race that sets you apart from the others?
Hey Matt! I have your signed car displayed proudly in my office, thanks again!
Here's my question - you get to create an exhibition race. What track do you select, and what era of cars would you compete in?
Are TBs your favorite breed? Are there any other breeds you particularly like?
Current dirt late models at Eldora!
And thank you for having my signed car!
moaia66: My passion for it. I group up around horse racing. I always loved it and always wanted to be a jockey. Obviously I'm lucky with my size, too. -JL
Was it your physical attributes that lead you to the sport? A love of riding? A combination of some sort?
How did you first hear about Reddit's spontaneous adoption of you as its favorite driver? It was definitely around the time of your 6th place last year at Bristol, but when did you first catch wind of the phenomenon?
Thanks for doing the AMA :)
Are TBs your favorite breed? Are there any other breeds you particularly like?
It was when I was wearing the Reddit/dogecoin shirt and I posted a picture on twitter. Some friends on Reddit told me that everyone loved it and I couldn't believe the response it got! And then after Bristol it was overwhelming how much everyone embraced an underdog driving for a small team like me!
skibonit: Hopefully not but never say never. I wouldn't mind being like Mike Smith and getting to ride whichever horse I want. -JL
Do you hope to still be riding in your 50's like Stevens & Smith?
You seem like such a wholesome guy. Don't let that big money contract go to your head when you get it!
I definitely will never become like that! I have had to work the old school way to get here and I wouldn't be where I am without the fans and I will never forget that. I honestly have fun meeting all the fans and interacting with them at the races and on social media!
If you were in control of NASCAR for one day, what would you change? You are awesome! Thank you for answering our questions!
I would make it easier for the small teams to compete somehow. It stinks having the same few powerhouse teams winning all the races! But unfortunately that's not an easy fix and I don't have the solution haha
Hey Matt! Of course we love seeing you on /r/NASCAR, but it's awesome to see you all over Reddit too!
I have a couple questions for you:
What do you think we as fans of the sport can do to get non fans to take the chance and come to a race?
Do you think the presence of Monster as the primary sponsor is bringing new eyes to NASCAR?
Would you ever do reality television?
1) that's a great question...I have been meeting so many new fans lately attending their first ever races and they all say they are surprised at how fun and family friendly the races are which is the word we need to continue to spread!
2) I think Monster is a huge help for bringing in the younger generation and we are lucky to have them
3) absolutely! I love doing anything TV related
Matthew, what cool free perks and swag have you gotten from your sponsors?
Can-Am just gave me a new Maverick x3 side by side!!! I grew up riding dirt bikes and four wheelers so that was literally the best present in the world. Many videos to come! I just picked it up last week
Matthew, how often do people mispell and mispronounce your name and what are the most bizarre misspellings and mispronunciations'?
ALL THE TIME. The most bizarre is when they say it like "DIE-BENNN-EEEEETO"
How are you still married to Taylor with that air horn and Jeffrey Earnhardt window sticker?
Hahahahahaha that is a great question!!!
I watch a lot of F1 and V8 supercars that race on circuits (street and road courses) and i dont understand the difficulty of racing on an oval, as an outsider looking in i assumed it would be relatively easy for a driver to transition to racing on ovals however every driver that seems to go from road courses to ovals seems to struggle. Can you please explain the challenges and difficulties of racing on an oval?..thanks
Great question! The ovals take a lot of smooth calculated driving and searching around for the fastest lines. It's just such a different style of driving and you are right on the edge at all times and it is tough. Best example of a huge difference: running 2" from the wall packing air up against it trying to make speed at tracks like California, Darlington, etc. this is a bad description but oval racing is tougher than it appears haha
Which is your opinion about the debut of Fernando Alonso in Indy?
I think it is very cool!
Hey Matt, shouting from /r/NASCAR.
I've always been very skeptical of you and your talent, but you have totally proven me wrong. You are elevating a single-car team that struggled to finish races last year with impressive top-20 finishes. So, I ask, if given the right opportunity with a top tier team, how far do you think you could get? Playoffs? Playoff contender? Final Four contender?
Thank you it means a lot! If given a ride with a powerhouse team I know I can win races and compete for championships one day. But for now I'm climbing the ladder the old school way!
Hey Matt! I've got a question!!
What is your Favorite Memory in NASCAR or Racing in general?
Finishing 6th at Bristol!
I am browsing r/NASCAR every day honestly and I always randomly pop in and comment on stuff. My favorite is on Monday mornings seeing what fun stuff is on there about the race the previous day.
And I have now gotten some of our guys on Reddit and informed them of what it's all about. Of course my PR guy Ryan is on here all the time haha
Movie series might have to be Star Wars
Favorite movies in general are The Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump