Think back to when you really wanted something but had to convince a parent, sibling or someone else, to help you get what you prized.
Maybe you cajoled. Or begged. Or if that didn’t work, maybe you pleaded.
Matt Tifft wrote a business proposal.
That’s how he convinced his parents to give him a cell phone. And how he persuaded them at age 11 to go racing, leading him on a path to Cup and his rookie campaign this season for Front Row Motorsports.
Tifft’s passion in cars was always there, his mom, Vicki Tifft said. But she wanted him to understand more. As an entrepreneur, she wanted him to look at the business side of his decisions.
Tifft’s desire to race increased after he drove a go-kart at a local track on his 11th birthday and was told he had the best time of a newcomer there.
“So, I went to my mom and said, ‘Hey did you hear that? We need to go get a go-kart and go racing here,’ ” Tifft told NBC Sports.
Not so fast, she said. He needed a plan.
“With anything that you want to pursue, there has to be an end goal in mind, so we talked about that even at a young age,” Vicki Tifft told NBC Sports. “What’s the difference between doing this as a hobby vs. doing this as a living? Can you make a career out of this? If the goal is to be racing with the intent of having a career, then there had to be certain goals and strategies in mind.
“So we talked with him about what was his ultimate goal and how do you achieve that goal? Where are you today and where do you need to be? What kind of activities or milestones do you need to make it through? What’s the timeframe? What’s the cost of it?”
Just as important at that time, was how would Tifft manage being a student. That included his music. Each of Vicki and Quinten Tifft’s three children have been required to study music until they were 18. Tifft studied piano, taking part in competitions — “he’s an amazing pianist,” said Vicki Tifft, who studied piano for about 20 years— and played saxophone.
“There’s just so much research that goes into the connection of studying music and brain development,” Vicki Tifft said of the reason for the family’s music requirement. “We felt that was very important. It helps with mathematics and processing speed. It’s a good discipline. It’s good to be able to understand how to tackle something that you think is daunting, that you don’t think you can accomplish and take it into small bits and break it down and practice individual parts and put everything together, which is very similar to racing.”
Tifft sold his parents on the idea of racing and soon was competing in go karts. When it came time to look beyond go-karts, Tifft again put together a plan to move to Late Model racing and set a career timeline to NASCAR’s premier series.
He ran a partial Gander Outdoors Truck schedule in 2015 and saw his 2016 season in that series interrupted when he was found to have a brain tumor. He moved to the Xfinity Series in 2017, running the full season for Joe Gibbs Racing and went to Richard Childress Racing to run the full Xfinity schedule in 2018. Tifft then moved to Cup with Front Row Motorsports this year. He finished a season-best ninth at Daytona earlier this month.
“We looked at that (career outline) a couple months ago and it’s kind of scary, almost to the ‘T’ of how to get into the Cup series, how well we followed it,” Tifft said.
2. No funny business
NASCAR reminded teams this week that series officials want clean restarts with no cars laying back or playing games. Series officials are likely to remind competitors of this in drivers meetings this weekend at Pocono Raceway (Cup and Truck) and Iowa Speedway (Xfinity Series).
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials planned to further examine the issue this week after questions about Aric Almirola’s restart — he received a warning — last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“I think you’ll see us address kind of restarts heading into Pocono and reminding the drivers what we expect as well,” O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio earlier this week.
There will be no rule changes to restarts.
3. Strategy play
With teams able to pit under green at Pocono Raceway — site of Sunday’s Cup race (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) — and not lose a lap, strategy will play a key role.
The stage breaks are at Laps 50 and 100 in the 160-lap race. In four of the five Pocono races with stage breaks, the winner stopped before the stage break at Lap 100. Teams still had one more pit stop. Three of those four winners pitted between Laps 122-124. The other winner stopped at Lap 135.
They were able to move back up after the break because those needing to score points stayed out and then pitted when the stage ended. With several drivers battling for the final playoff spots, there’s a good chance many of those drivers will stay out to score stage points
In June, Kyle Busch stopped on Lap 94 and then made his last pit stop at Lap 124 with his four-stop strategy.
4. Another top five
Matt DiBenedetto‘s fifth-place finish last weekend at New Hampshire marked his second top-five finish of the season.
DiBenedetto continues to search for his first career Cup victory but his two top fives give him one more top five this year than five former Cup winners. Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Paul Menard each have won in Cup and have only one top-five finish this season.
5. Nearly unstoppable
The Xfinity Series returns to Iowa Speedway for Saturday’s race (5 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Christopher Bell, who won there in June, looks to continue his domination on the shorter tracks.
In the last 12 Xfinity races on tracks 1 mile in length or less — Iowa, New Hampshire, Dover, Richmond, Bristol and ISM Raceway — Bell has won nine times. He’s led 37.2% of all the laps in those 12 races, dating back to last season.
At Iowa, Bell seeks his third consecutive victory. He has led 55.2% of the laps run there the past two races.