The question at this point isn’t “What has Matt Tifft done this week?” Instead, it’s “What hasn’t Matt Tifft done this week?”
Four days ago, Tifft was announced as a member of the 2016-17 NASCAR Next class. Before that, the UNC-Charlotte student finished his finals “with flying colors” as he described it. Saturday saw the 19-year-old driver accomplish something he’s never done in his career: A top-five finish in a Camping World Trucks Series race.
Doing it at Charlotte made it even sweeter.
“Everybody claims this place as their ‘home track,’ so getting a good run here is special because you get to go home and enjoy it with your family and friends almost immediately,” Tifft said. “It’s a really neat deal getting to enjoy this one. It didn’t look like that for a while, but our strategy paid off. Our attitude from 20 laps to go to the end result changed a lot.”
— Red Horse Racing (@RedHorseRacing) May 21, 2016
The strategy Tifft is implying was a call by crew chief Scott Zipadelli to come in and top off on fuel on a late caution. Tifft conserved fuel until the end of the race and while other trucks were forced to pit, Tifft took his Red Horse Racing Tundra up near the front.
While Matt Crafton might have won the race — his second consecutive win after being shut out of Victory Lane to start the season — Tifft’s finish was a huge accomplishment after running just inside the top 20 for much of the afternoon.
“We weren’t going to come down and I said, screw it, let’s come down and let’s get some fuel,” Tifft said. “It really worked to our favor there and sometimes when you’re in the back like that you have choices you can make. … Red Horse Racing has worked hard this whole year and the funny thing is that we’ve had really, really fast trucks and we didn’t get the finishes we wanted.
“Today may be the opposite, but we’ll take top fives as they come.”
— Matt Tifft (@Matt_Tifft) May 21, 2016
His career-best finish comes just a week after his second-straight top-10 result in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. The growth for Tifft is evident as he has improved each week with Red Horse, starting with a 14th-place result at Kansas and a 12th-place finish at Dover.
Now that the heavy workload from UNCC is done and he’s gaining more experience in the NASCAR Next program, Tifft can focus on racing. And with a start as hot as Tifft has experienced this year, that has to be terrifying for the rest of the Young Guns in the sport.
“I’m enjoying racing a lot this year,” Tifft said. “I’ve always enjoyed it before, but I can’t wait to get to the track this year. … Things are about to get a little easier without classes, so I’m planning on spending this entire summer improving as a driver with both teams.”