Matt Tifft

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Points penalty won’t affect Matt Tifft’s position in playoffs

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NASCAR penalized an Xfinity Series playoff team Wednesday, but it won’t affect its points position entering the Round of 8 that begins next week at Kansas Speedway.

Matt Tifft’s No. 19 Toyota was docked 10 drivers and owners points for being found too low after finishing ninth Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The deduction is applied after the Round of 12 cutoff race and before the points were reset for the next round. Tifft still advances because he was 16 points ahead of the cutoff line, though the Joe Gibbs Racing driver will be without crew chief Matt Beckman, who was suspended from the next race.

Tifft will begin the next round in eighth place with 3,004 points, 22 behind leader William Byron.

The No. 11 Chevrolet of Blake Koch also was found to be too low, earning a 10-point deduction and one-race suspension for crew chief Chris Rice. Koch already was eliminated from the playoffs after the three-race Round of 12.

Rice and Beckman also were fined $10,000 apiece.

In the Monster Energy Cup Series, NASCAR issued a $10,000 fine to Scott Graves, crew chief for Daniel Suarez, for an unsecure lug nut after Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR also announced the indefinite suspension of Dennis O’Connor for violating the substance abuse policy. Crew member Reid T. Ferguson was reinstated from indefinite suspension after completing the Road to Recovery program.

 

Matt Tifft: Richard Childress Racing will be ‘totally new world for me’

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CONCORD, North Carolina — After two years and more than 35 starts with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series, Matt Tifft will have a new home next season.

It was announced last week that Tifft, 21, will join Richard Childress Racing next season driving the No. 2 Chevrolet.

Tifft said Saturday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway the move will present a “totally new world for me.” The native of Hinckley, Ohio, will drive something other than a Toyota for the first time since 2014 when he competed in three Camping World Truck Series races for B.J. McLeod Motorsports.

“I don’t know how the simulation of the Chevy things work,” Tifft said. “I don’t know what they do differently on the engineering side or the driver development side. All that will be new to me. New crew chief, new guys. That part is always exciting because you have newness around it. Not to say this was bad at all, because I’m really having a great time with my guys right now and it’s been a lot of fun. You have the opportunity to be there for a couple of years and hopefully grow together and get to a place where we’re winning races.”

There are four races left in Tifft’s tenure driving the No. 19 Toyota for JGR. In his rookie Xfinity season, Tifft has two top fives and 10 top 10s following Saturday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tifft is one of the eight drivers left in the playoffs.

He finished ninth in Saturday’s race, recovering from an uncontrolled tire penalty that sent him a lap down and temporarily outside the top eight in the standings.

No matter the outcome of Tifft’s playoff experience this season, he has multi-year deal waiting for him at RCR’s shop in Welcome, North Carolina.

“It’s something I had to do for my career to be able to hopefully stay around a while longer,” Tifft said. “It’s exciting for sure. Obviously, right now the playoffs matter. This year matters. It’s something for sure to look forward to next year.”

Tifft will be joining a RCR operation that will include at least Daniel Hemric. The driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet was announced as returning to RCR next season in the hours before Tifft’s news was announced.

Next season will be Tifft’s first in NASCAR with a full-time teammate.

MORE: Daniel Hemric moves forward with new RCR contract

Similar to Tifft, Hemric arrived at RCR this year after having driven a Ford for Brad Keselowski Racing in the Truck Series in 2016. But he had driven a Chevrolet the previous year while racing for NTS Motorsports.

“He has so much car knowledge,” Tifft said of Hemric. “He comes from a background of working on and building cars and that’s really cool and it’s really admirable for a driver to do that. I understand the workings of the cars a good bit and I’ve learned a lot more about it. But having someone like that I think will just improve my understanding of these cars and what exactly I need to know about them. It’s nice to have a teammate there that can explain anything going on and you can bounce stuff off each other. That will definitely be a great thing for me.”

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Alex Bowman triumphs at Charlotte for first career Xfinity victory

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CONCORD, North Carolina — Alex Bowman, making his first Xfintiy Series start of the season, took the lead with 32 laps left and won Saturday night’s rain-delayed race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

While Bowman, who will take over Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Cup ride next season, celebrated his first career Xfinity win, four the 12 playoff contenders were eliminated from title contention.

Ryan Reed held on for the eighth and final transfer spot to the next round, beating Brendan Gaughan by one point. 

Advancing to the next round of the playoffs are Justin Allgaier, William Byron, Elliott Sadler, Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric, Brennan Poole, Matt Tifft and Reed.

Eliminated from title contention were Brendan Gaughan, Jeremy Clements, Blake Koch and Michael Annett.

MORE: Race results

More: Points report

Sam Hornish Jr. finished second. Ryan Blaney, who won the May race at this track, placed third.

Rain delayed the start of the race more than five hours.

That didn’t matter to Bowman, who scored his first series win in 51 starts.

To get my first win here in my second home at Charlotte means so much,’’ Bowman told NBCSN.

Stage 1 Winner: Erik Jones

Stage 2 Winner: Daniel Suarez

Who else had a good race: Sam Hornish Jr. started 31st in just his fifth start of the season. He was up to second at the beginning of the final stage and ran in the top five most of the rest of the night, finishing second. … Brennan Poole placed fifth, ranking as the highest-finishing playoff driver. It marked his third consecutive top-five finish.

Who had a bad race: Blake Koch battled power steering issues, losing a lap before the opening stage ended. He fell a second lap down and never recovered, finishing 25th.  … Angela Ruch brought out the first two cautions for incidents and finished 36th. … Justin Allgaier hit a battery from Ruch’s car after her crash and that caused cooling issues. His engine later expired and he finished 33rd. … Spencer Gallagher had a tire go down and it caused too much damage to repair. He finished 34th. … A slow pit stop and then a penalty for an uncontrolled tire in the final 40 laps cost Daniel Suarez a chance for the win. He finished eighth.

Notable: The cars of Matt Tifft and Blake Koch failed inspection after the race. Both cars were too low. The infraction is likely an L1 penalty. A similar infraction earlier this year in the series was a 10-point penalty. Tifft advances to the next round by 16 points, so a 10-p0int penalty wouldn’t alter the eight playoff contenders if that’s the penalty. 

Quote of the night: “That’s what you do in playoffs, that’s what the best playoff teams do in any sport no matter who much you’re down, no matter how much you need, you just find a way,’’ Ryan Reed on advancing by one point to the next round of the playoffs.

What’s next: The series is off until Oct. 21 at Kansas Speedway.

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Matt Tifft joining Richard Childress Racing to drive No. 2 Xfinity car in 2018

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Matt Tifft will drive full-time for Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series next year, the team announced Thursday.

Tifft, a rookie with Joe Gibbs Racing this season, will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet as part of a multi-year deal.

The 21-year-old driver of the No. 19 Toyota is one of the 12 in the Xfinity playoffs that continue this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Tifft’s news comes on the same day RCR announced Daniel Hemric will return to drive the No. 21 Chevrolet next season.

“I am very appreciative and grateful for the opportunity to race for a championship and grow as a driver under one the most successful and historic teams in NASCAR,” Tifft said in a press release. “RCR has a long history of developing partnerships through its Xfinity Series program.

“I am looking forward to being a part of the family and applying what I have learned in my first full-time Xfinity Series season while continuing to grow with the goal of competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in the future.”

Tifft has made 39 Xfinity starts since 2015. He has no wins, three top fives and 15 top 10s. In 2016, Tifft missed a portion of the season as he recovered from having a low-grade brain tumor removed.

“Matt is a talented race car driver and an even better young man,” Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of RCR said in a press release. “I’ve watched him race for the past few years and we were impressed by his ability. We look forward to welcoming Matt to our Xfinity Series program and having him compete for a championship with RCR.”

Xfinity Spotlight: How far will playoff drivers go to advance?

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No mother or grandmother is safe.

That’s the impression left by more than one of the 12 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff drivers when asked a simple question.

What are you willing to do to advance to the Round of 8?

Thanks to wins by non-playoff divers Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney, none of the 12 drivers have officially advanced to next round.

Here’s what each driver had to say before the start of the playoffs.

Justin Allgaier, JR Motorsports’ No. 7 Chevrolet (+54 points above first driver outside transfer spot)

“You know having teammates involved in this, you know you look at where you stand. I mean I have a lot of respect for my teammates, and you know that makes it very challenging when you get down to that final spot. If you’re battling it out with a teammate, what’s the limit? How far do you go? And I think that’s the area of concern for everybody. You know, none of us want to be the villain in this. None of us want to be the guy that goes out and crashes everybody to try and make it. I know that we all get along. That’s the one thing that’s pretty cool. Everybody in the top 12 gets along really well at this point. We’d love to keep it that way when this playoffs is over.

William Byron, JR Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet (+51)

“I think whatever you feel like is the right thing to do. We are going to do whatever it takes as far as our performance, as far as what we can do in our control and then when it comes to racing around guys I feel like we are doing our job if we are ahead of those guys already. So, if we are not, then there is something we are not doing that isn’t going right. So, we are going to approach it the same way we have and compete at a really high level and give 110 percent and if that means that we need to win we are going to go out there and win.”

Elliott Sadler (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Elliott Sadler, JR Motorsports’ No. 1 Chevrolet (+41)

“You’ve got to be aggressive, you’ve got to try and get all the points that you can. Now with the stage racing, (that) gives you two more opportunities per race to get more points under your belt than maybe you really could in years past. So there’s things you’ve got to pay attention to, there’s a lot of things going on these days during these races that if you don’t understand what you’re doing, don’t ( look) ahead, some other teams could take advantage of them. I think that is what our team has done the best this year is getting those stage points. So that’s something that’ll be a main focus of ours as we try to head through these playoffs.

Cole Custer, Stewart Haas Racing’s No. 00 Chevrolet (+40)

“You don’t know until you are in that situation because every situation is different, but you definitely got to be pretty aggressive when it comes down to it. If you are going to have to advance to another round, there is not much that I don’t think a lot of us wouldn’t do.”

Daniel Hemric, Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet (+37)

“How about whatever it takes. The whole season is on the line. These guys bust their tails for it day in and day out at the shop. My entire career has been built for that moment so we find ourselves on the cut line I will do whatever it takes to prevail not only for me but for success of myself moving forward, for my career, for my team.”

Brennan Poole, Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 48 Chevrolet (+29)

“I just kinda hang it out there, you know. Anytime I’m in a position to be able to get the lead or win a race you know you just put everything on the line, doesn’t really matter, you just do what it takes to get it done regardless, worry about it later.”

Matt Tifft (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images) 

Matt Tifft, Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Toyota (+14)

“I am willing to wreck my grandma in a (cutoff) race. I mean you got to do what you got to do. But at the same time obviously, (the) second round cut race is going to be maybe a bigger move than a first round cut race would be. … But if it’s something where you’re kind of close, you don’t want to go and make somebody mad that’s going to come back to haunt you (in the second round), but you know, you got to, sometimes you got to take a chance, if that’s what we have to do we’ll do it.”

Ryan Reed, Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 16 Ford (+2)

“Really anything, you know if it’s two (laps) to go and the guy in front of you is the difference between advancing and not advancing, you’ll move him, you’ll wreck him. I think you saw Ryan Newman move Kyle Larson (Phoenix, 2014), that was a really good example of … Ryan Newman doesn’t do that, he doesn’t make that pass, he doesn’t do that move if it wasn’t for the playoffs and for that situation and that holds truth. I think almost every single driver, they will do whatever it takes to get to the next round.

Brendan Gaughan, Richard Childress Racing’s No. 62 Chevrolet (-2 from final transfer spot)

“Everyone … wants to hear us say we would wreck our mother for a win and a guy goes out and wrecks his mother for a win and people turn on him. Who was it in the (Camping World Truck Series) race? Austin Cindric did that. Everyone loves us to say those words and that when we do they are like, ‘oh that is a bad guy.’ Here’s deal, I will race you hard. If it means I have to win to get in and I can get to your rear bumper, I am not going to wreck you but I am definitely going to take a shot at you to move you. That is just what you have to do. If you are in that position and it is a must-win, you will do what you need to do to get that must-win.”

Michael Annett, JR Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet (-7)

“You don’t want to wreck a teammate but if you’ve got to move them, I think any one of them would sit here and say the same thing; they’re going to do it because you’ve got to drive that car down pit road and meet your guys and if they think you left anything out there, then I don’t think I’ll be able to look them in the eye. So that’s the mentality you know that I don’t think you’ll see necessarily come out, you know unless you’re racing for a win throughout the year. But when you get to the playoffs if it means moving on to the next round or not, you know that one spot, it’s going to feel like a win at least that day.”

Blake Koch. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Blake Koch, Kaulig Racing’s No. 11 Chevrolet (-12)

“It is a tough question to really have a solid answer for, but I’m going to do everything that I possibly can to pass the guy in front of me, and whether that’s a cutoff spot or not, I feel like every point matters so much in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter who it is, whether they have a red spoiler (for playoff drivers) or not, you need to get around that car because that one point could be the point that gets you to the next round of the playoffs.”

Jeremy Clements, Jeremy Clements Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet (-20)

“I’m willin’ to do anything it takes. If we gotta move a guy to get that spot and they say we need that extra spot, that extra point, I’m gonna have to do it. I mean this is – we don’t know how many times we’ll get this opportunity (to be in the playoffs). So we’re gonna do all it takes to make it to the next round and … and if I gotta move my Mom outta the way I’ll do it.”

Previous Spotlights

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

Daniel Hemric

William Byron

Spencer Gallagher

Cole Custer

Ross Chastain

Elliott Sadler

Ben Kennedy

Blake Koch

Brennan Poole

Matt Tifft

Tyler Reddick

Kyle Benjamin

Ty Majeski

Ryan Sieg

Dakoda Armstrong

Brendan Gaughan

Garrett Smithley

J.J. Yeley

Harrison Rhodes

James Davison

Jeremy Clements

David Starr

Austin Cindric

Christopher Bell

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