Friday 5: Matt Tifft reveals cause of his seizures


Matt Tifft’s Lyft ride takes him to his Cup team’s race shop as he discusses a subject he couldn’t bring himself to publicly talk about for months.

Tifft, whose NASCAR driving career was sidelined after an Oct. 2019 seizure at Martinsville Speedway, needs a ride to work because he’s not allowed to drive.

The co-owner of Live Fast Motorsports must go six months without a seizure before he can seek to drive again in North Carolina. It’s only been about 10 weeks since his last seizure — the seventh he’s had since that morning in Martinsville.

Doctors diagnosed the 24-year-old with epilepsy last January, but it has taken Tifft since then to overcome his anxiety about the brain disorder and talk publicly about the diagnosis.

His driving career on hold because of epilepsy, Matt Tifft became co-owner of the Live Fast Motorsports Cup team with B.J. McLeod. The team will makes its debut in the Feb. 14 Daytona 500. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

“It can be very depressing,” Tifft told NBC Sports in his first public comments about his epilepsy and how it has impacted his life. “It can be very anxiety-inducing because it really changes almost everything you do in your regular life.”

His driving career in NASCAR may be over. He’s not wheeled a passenger car since going to Martinsville 15 months ago. Tests could not determine what caused his epilepsy. Doctors can’t say with certainty that it will go away.

Tifft admits he had to go through “a lot of therapy just to get out of my house” after the seizures, worried about what could happen to him if he had another one.

He knows he’s not alone, though.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 3.4 million people nationwide are affected by epilepsy. The World Health Organization estimates that 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy.

The more Tifft talked with friends and family about epilepsy, the more he heard about others who had it.

“OK, I’m no longer alone with this,” he said. “That made me feel a whole lot better.”

And willing to be open about what he’s going through.

“People with epilepsy, we still are normal functioning people,” Tifft said. “It’s literally an electrical firestorm in your brain. When you have a seizure, it’s like a surge protector shutting it down to keep your body from harming itself.”

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder where abnormal brain activity can lead to seizures that range from people blankly staring for a few seconds to others having convulsions. The World Health Organization notes that the cause of the disorder is unknown in about 50% of cases globally.

Concussions can lead to epilepsy — Tifft said he’s had about half a dozen concussions in his life — but there is nothing conclusive to show that is the case for his epilepsy.

He also said doctors don’t believe that the brain tumor he had removed July 1, 2016 directly led to his condition.

“They say it could just be a cocktail of different things that happened,” Tifft said of what doctors have told him.

That unknown has made it more difficult for him to deal with compared to the brain tumor he had.

“When I had the brain tumor … I was able to see it,” he said. “I see it gone (after the surgery via scans). There was a plan. There was a timeline.

“With this, it’s a little bit harder, because you don’t know when it’s going to happen. As we’ve gone along, I’ve had to change medications. … I think a big part of (not revealing the epilepsy diagnosis earlier) and a big reason why I wanted to do it before the season came, I wasn’t trying to hide it, I think it took that long to accept it.

Tifft said his most recent seizure was Nov. 10. He said his first seizures lasted between three to five minutes. His most recent seizure went for less than a minute. That seizure also was the first time he remained conscious the entire time.

One constant is that he has a warning before a seizure occurs.

“I have a 10- or 15-second warning and most people don’t have that,” Tifft said. “They just normally go, boom, they’re out. That warning or aura I have is a little bit bizarre. … The best that I could put it is that you know when you’re a little kid and you put a tip of a D battery up to your tongue to feel the shock. It feels like that through your brain.

“I would still be conscious before I started having muscle movements. For me, my tongue rolls back. Then my eyes go backward in my head. At the same time, I can feel my arms go up. I can feel all that before I pass out and it hits the off button somewhere in there.”

The Epilepsy Foundation states that six out of 10 people diagnosed with the disorder can become seizure-free within a few years with proper treatment.

“It’s possible that I never have another one and that’s kind of what I go with,” Tifft said. “But, at the same time now, I’m not convinced of that. I go, ‘OK, there’s a high chance I can have another one, so what can I do to make sure to help extend that timeline (between seizures)?’ … Then maybe there’s a day I don’t worry about it.”

Just as Tifft became an advocate for those with brain tumors after his tumor — he had sponsorship with the National Brain Tumor Society and traveled to Washington, D.C., in May 2017 to petition members of Congress for more funding for brain tumor research — he’ll be an advocate for those with epilepsy.

“If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it full bore,” Tifft said.

That’s why he’s speaking now. He also wants people to understand what they should do if they are around someone who is suffering a seizure, such as easing a person to the floor and gently turning them on to their side. The co-owner of the No. 78 Cup team plans to make a $7,800 donation at the beginning of the race season to the epilepsy foundation toward research and awareness.

He also says this ordeal has taught him a key lesson.

“At the beginning, I looked at it wrong,” he said. “‘OK, I’m going to have a seizure, when is it going to be?’ Now, it’s like, ‘OK, that’s not the right mindset. Let me enjoy today because it may happen again.’ I think that’s the mindset change and that’s a big deal, because I feel I’m getting to appreciate things I couldn’t do before.”

2. Side trip to IndyCar test

Ross Chastain, who is entering his first Cup season with Chip Ganassi Racing, made a trip to Sebring International Raceway earlier this week to meet some of his teammates on Ganassi’s IndyCar side at the NTT IndyCar Series preseason test session.

AUTO: FEB 21 NASCAR Cup Series - Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube
Ross Chastain will drive the No. 42 car for Chip Ganassi Racing in Cup this season. (Photo by Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“I’ve got an arsenal of teammates here under the CGR banner that Chip has amassed from all walks of motorsports,” Chastain told NBC Sports.  I’ve got people that I can ask questions, like Dario Franchitti, Jimmie Johnson and Scott Dixon. Those are the big-name guys, but then getting to meet Alex Palou, another rookie coming into Chip’s team.

“He just moved to Indianapolis (where Ganassi’s IndyCar team is based), trying to get his bearings up there, same thing for me. We shared notes and have a lot of the struggles and fears and anxiousness. He’s from a totally different part of the world, but here we both are trying to tackle our first full season in our dream car in our dream series for a dream owner.

“Comparing notes and just getting to meet them and just ask questions. I have a lot of questions to ask and I want to ask different people and get all of their opinions and all of their feedback and then I form my own thoughts.”

Chastain will be teammates with Kurt Busch on Ganassi’s Cup program this season.

3. Playing in the dirt

Matt DiBenedetto says he will probably run a midget car “a couple of times” this year.

“I have a big, big passion for dirt racing,” the Wood Brothers Racing driver told NBC Sports. “I think it will fit my style very well.”

DiBenedetto said he hopes to be in a midget car on dirt before the Bristol Dirt Cup race March 28.

Wood Brothers
Matt DiBenedetto enters his second Cup season with Wood Brothers Racing. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“Probably more for fun,” he said of why he wants to run a midget car, “because it’s a completely different driving style for a midget vs. a Cup car on dirt. As far as honing your skills to be a great driver, the more things you can drive, it only makes you better.”

“Dirt racing teaches you a lot of characteristics that carry over to asphalt. I think that’s why you’ve seen Christopher Bell, guys like that, make incredible saves because they have throttle control. I’m just looking to do that to continue to hone my skills and make me an even better race car driver. And I miss dirt racing. I grew up doing. I loved it.”

DiBenedetto said he’s been wanting to run a midget in the past, but the Bristol Dirt race provided extra motivation to do so this year.

“The older I get,” the 29-year-old said, “the more I’m just completely focused on self development and being the best I can be in everything, whether it’s life or … driving a race car.”

4. Respect

One of the key things Christopher Bell said he learned from his rookie season was respect. For the car.

Among the adjustments Bell had to make going from the Xfinity to Cup was the change in cars. Xfinity cars have composite bodies, which can withstand much more contact than the steel bodies of Cup cars. The steel bodies are more prone to crinkle on contact.

“I knew that was going to be a big change,” Bell told NBC Sports of the switch between cars. “It was still eye-opening how fragile steel bodies are. You’ve got to really take care of them and take care of your equipment.”

Bell finished 20th in points last season for Leavine Family Racing, scoring seven top 10s. He failed to finish four races. He moves to Joe Gibbs Racing this season to be a teammate to Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin.

Cole Custer, who was last year’s Cup rookie of the year and scored a win to earn a playoff spot, said he learned to treat the Cup cars better.

“It was definitely something you had to think about,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver told NBC Sports. “If you touched the wall, you were probably going to get a flat (because of the fender rubbing the tire). At the same time, I don’t think it was something I focused on. It was just something that was part of (adjusting to Cup).”

5. Extra laps of racing

The tentative weekend schedule for the Daytona road course lists the Feb. 21 Cup race as 70 laps. That event was 65 laps a year ago.

Last year’s race lasted 2 hours, 37 minutes, 30 seconds.

The Xfinity race is again listed as 52 laps for the scheduled distance. The Truck race is again listed as 44 laps for the scheduled distance.

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Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry


Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.


Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”



NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”