Matt Tifft

Jeremy Clements preps for Xfinity playoff push at road courses

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It’s Jeremy Clements‘ time of the year.

Clements’ best chance at qualifying for the Xfinity Series playoffs via a race win has arrived in the form of two consecutive road course races.

The first, Aug. 8 at Road America, represents Clements’ annual return to the high point of his Xfinity Series career. He won at the Wisconsin road course in dramatic fashion in 2017, beating Michael Annett and Matt Tifft for his only win through 349 career starts.

The following week, Clements will pilot his No. 51 Chevrolet in the series’ first race on the Daytona International Speedway road course.

The back-to-back road course races come as Clements sits 32 points behind the cutoff for the 12 driver playoff field. He’s chasing fellow independent driver Brandon Brown for the final spot.

Clements, 35, isn’t bothered by the attention that shifts his way every year when the series arrives at a road course, specifically the 4.048-mile Road America.

“I enjoy it,” Clements told NBC Sports. “I didn’t even grow up a road-course racer. I just kind of latched on to it after I did it a few times and really enjoy it and feel like I can make up for lack of speed that we have at a mile-and-a-half-track against the big teams. … The road courses just seem to fall in that category with what I’m in and I enjoy it. … I’m always excited for it and yeah, I like the attention. Hopefully we can win again, man, so we can just prove it wasn’t a fluke, which I feel like we can definitely do.”

Clements enters Road America with six consecutive top-13 finishes, which ties a career best. That’s on top of finishing 13th or better in 10 of the 13 races held since the series returned to action in May, including a third-place finish at Pocono.

“I think it’s pretty good,” Clements said. “I want to be a top 10 every week. But man, we’re just right there, outside the line there, racing against the big teams. In my opinion, I want to try to be the first small, non-big team that finishes right behind those guys. And if you can beat a few of them, that’s even a better day. So we’ve done that here and there. Then we’ve had other little problems, of course, which everybody has.”

Jeremy Clements Pocono
Jeremy Clements’ best finish of the year was third at Pocono. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Clements believes he’ll have “a little bit of an advantage” at the road courses over Brown. In nine starts at Road America, Clements has three tops 10s, all coming in the last six starts.

Brown will make just his second Road America start. Last year, he dropped out on Lap 10 due to a suspension issue.

Earlier this month in the race on the Indianapolis road course, Clements finished 13th and Brown placed 11th.

“We can get some stage points and just try to reel off a top 10 or better (at Road America)” Clements said. “We finished eighth there last year, we’ve won there before, obviously. We can run good at Road America.”

One difference between the Jeremy Clements Racing that won at Road America in 2017 and now is the quality of the cars it owns. When Chip Ganassi Racing closed its Xfinity program at the start of 2019, JCR purchased some of its cars and has been fielding them since.

“We never had equipment like that, “Clements said. “They were about to race those cars. Usually we get the chassis, and then you don’t get the good suspension or the right suspension for it, so you got a puzzle and you got like half the pieces for it. So we got cars that came with everything like they’re supposed to.”

Like almost everyone else in the field, Clements will soon get his first shot at the Daytona road course with no practice or qualifying beforehand, just like every remaining race this season.

“With no practice, really don’t know how that’s gonna go,” Clements said. “Especially when you got a draw, you don’t qualify and you’re starting wherever. So going into Turn 1 at Daytona should be really interesting and hopefully everybody will … have some patience.”

In preparing for the Daytona race, Clements’ approach will be slightly different than it was for Indianapolis road course.

This time he’ll have more than an Xbox game at his disposal. While larger teams had access to simulators to get acclimated with the course, Clements couldn’t even use iRacing, which did not have the updated course. Instead, he could only make laps on the latest version of the Forza racing series.

“They had NASCAR-style cars and just drove for a couple hours, literally a day or two before (the race),” Clements said. “And shoot it was really accurate, I was surprised. I mean, I played a bunch of tracks on those kind of games and you get familiar with them that way. So I knew if I could just get familiar with the track that would help. So it really helped, first lap out in practice was fast, we were fifth fastest. It was really cool. And I’ll definitely do that again for the Daytona road course. And I’m pretty sure iRacing has that track on it because it’s been around forever.”

Regardless of how he’s preparing for the road courses, Clements doesn’t want to worry himself with how he’s performing in relation to Brown, who has four top 10s this year and has finished 13th or better in five of the last seven races.

“I just want to do the best I can and not make mistakes and hopefully, mechanical gremlins stay away because if we have one of those we will be out of contention,” Clements said. “I’m just gonna do my thing and not make mistakes, stay on track, not doing anything stupid. …

“So just gonna do all that like I usually do and really not worry about that part and what happens will happen. So we’ll just race our tails off and hopefully it’ll be enough.”

Matt Tifft to undergo new test to seek cause of seizures

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NASCAR driver Matt Tifft revealed Wednesday he will undergo additional testing this week to potentially determine what caused two seizures that have kept him sidelined from racing for the past seven months.

Tifft, who turns 24 on June 26, suffered his first seizure Oct. 26, 2019 at Martinsville Speedway and has not raced since then. Tifft and his team, Front Row Motorsports, announced Nov. 13, 2019, that they were mutually ending their agreement so he could focus on his health.

Tifft revealed earlier this year that he suffered a second seizure on December 12, 2019, while on his honeymoon.

“I know you’ve been asking for a health update from me,” Tifft said Wednesday to followers in a video post on Twitter. “So today I’m actually flying up to Columbus, Ohio, and then riding up to Hinckley (his hometown of Hinckley, Ohio) from there this week. I’m going to University Hospitals (south of Cleveland).”

MORE: Friday 5: Mat Tifft on the road to recovery from December seizure

Tifft will undergo an electroencephalogram – commonly known as an “EEG” – that detects irregularities in electrical activity of the brain.

“What that means is they put a bunch of probes on my head to try and figure out what has been causing these past seizures,” Tifft said in his video tweet.

According to, “An EEG can determine changes in brain activity that might be useful in diagnosing brain disorders, especially epilepsy or another seizure disorder.

“An EEG might also be helpful for diagnosing or treating the following disorders: brain tumor, brain damage from head injury, brain dysfunction that can have a variety of causes (encephalopathy), inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), stroke and sleep disorders.”

Tifft, who underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor in mid-2016, appeared upbeat and optimistic in Wednesday’s 41-second video.

“Hopefully, this gives us some answers,” he said. “And based on that, we’ll have some treatment plan to hopefully correct and fix this moving forward so it never happens again.

“Thanks for all your concern and thoughts through all this time and everybody stay safe and we’ll let you know what happens here soon.”

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Friday 5: Matt Tifft on the road to recovery from December seizure

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Even on his honeymoon, Matt Tifft exercised as he prepared to race again this season. But about 30 minutes after his workout, Tifft began to feel “weird.”

The only way he can describe it now is that it felt like he stuck his finger into an electrical outlet.

He tried to tell his bride something was wrong, but he couldn’t speak. His tongue rolled back. And then eyes rolled back.

“I could see it,” Tifft told NBC Sports. “I could actually see my other eye. It was the freakiest thing out of a nightmare movie that you could ever imagine.”

As his body convulsed, he couldn’t breathe.

Eleven weeks later, Tifft describes the Dec. 12 seizure — his second last year — in a way he admits he could not have done so a month ago. But understanding what likely led to both seizures and using a cannabidiol (CBD) product help his anxiety, Tifft says he feels much better and looks forward to two weeks before his 24th birthday when he can return to driving a street car. As for racing again? He hopes to do so but knows there’s no guarantee.

Matt Tifft says the use of a CBD product has helped him in the last month. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Tifft, a Cup rookie last year, suffered his first seizure shortly shortly before practice Oct. 26 in the Front Row Motorsports’ hauler at Martinsville Speedway. After the Dec. 12 seizure, there was one common theme: Tifft had been off his keto diet both times. He suffered food poisoning that led to what he said was an “extreme stomach infection” about a week before the seizure at Martinsville.

While off his diet during his honeymoon, the combination of eating foods he hadn’t — and forcing his body to process carbs and sugars it had not in some time — along with his body reacting to his workout “spiked me into the danger zone.”

But it took time for that cause to be found. Tifft, who had brain surgery in July 2016 to remove a slow-growing tumor, worried about what was happening to him and panicked about being in public.

“My battle with this anxiety and panic attacks have gotten a lot better … (with) CBD,” Tifft said of cannabidiol, a naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis. “It has actually been, I would say a life-changing thing for me to go from being terrified of leaving my house (to) being able to go in public when I started taking that. It’s made such a huge difference that I can function socially and go to places and do things.

“I find it interesting still that that’s illegal in our sport because I know so many times after intense races or you go to Dover or Bristol and your body is all twisted up and it feels terrible and you just have to take ibuprofen or Tylenol because that is what is legal. If we could take something like (CBD), I think it’s a much more natural and efficient way of helping our bodies.”

The NASCAR Rule Book addresses CBD products in its Substance Abuse Policy in a section titled: Dietary and CBD Supplements.

Section 19.3.4.a states “Dietary and CBD supplements may contain (either purposefully or through contamination) a prohibited substance under this Policy.”

Section 19.3.4.b states: “Any product sold with a warning advising non-use if the purchaser is subject to a drug testing program should be avoided even though such products may be available without a prescription.”

Sports leagues are split on CBD. The World Anti-Doping Agency announced in 2018 that CBD had been removed from its list of banned substances making this year’s Olympics the first in which athletes can legally use CBD.

MORE: Questions and answers about CBD from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency

The Pain Management Committee of the NFL and NFL Players Association held a fact-finding forum in January with manufacturers of products that use CBD in sports medicine. The NFL’s drug policy includes a ban on THC, a substance found in marijuana and some CBD products. Mike Bass, NBA executive vice president of communications, told NBC Sports Philadelphia that “we have regular discussions with the players’ association about a variety of matters, including … CBD. Those conversations are ongoing.”

Tifft said he began using a CBD product in January and felt better about 20 minutes later.

Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (right) celebrates after Kurt Busch won the 2017 Daytona 500. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“I think the thing that initially brought me to it was athletes like Rob Gronkowski, guys who have been advocates of it afterward from their healing and recovery,” Tifft told NBC Sports. “Someone like me, who has dealt with brain issues, it’s known as a neuro protective, so for someone like me, I’ve always been interested from the outside of it and studied the results of it and effects of it.”

Should Tifft get a chance to race again in NASCAR, he knows he could be at a crossroads with CBD.

“If it came down to and I was cleared to race again and that was kind of the choice, I’d have to weigh out, if I go off of this can I feel I feel OK and be fine,” he said. “If that’s the case, I’d be fine with doing that. I think an optimal sense if we can have something that can benefit folks but also be able to come back to racing, that’s the ideal scenario.

“It depends on the time where right now I’m excited to get my normal’s drivers license June 12 because it’s a six-month process (after the last seizure). For me, right now, honestly, driving anything other than iRacing is just far-fetched.”

2. On target for 250

Last March, Kyle Busch collected his 200th career victory among NASCAR’s top three national series — Cup, Xfinity and Trucks — and the idea was posed that he could be on his way to 250 or more career series wins before he retires.

Busch remains on target heading to Auto Club Speedway this weekend with 209 career NASCAR victories, including his Truck win last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kyle Busch has won 209 career NASCAR races across the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

His success in the Truck series — he’s won his past seven starts — led Kevin Harvick and then Marcus Lemonis to tweet that they would give a total of $100,000 to a Cup driver who could beat Busch in the Truck Series. Busch has four Truck races remaining this season. Both Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson will take that challenge

Since 2015, Busch has averaged 13.4 victories a year in those three series combined. He turns 35 in May, giving him plenty of years to reach 250 career wins, but his efforts will be slowed in the future. Busch has stated that once he hits 100 career Xfinity victories (he has 96) he would stop racing in that series except for if car owner Joe Gibbs requested him to drive in particular races.

What Busch is doing is something that won’t be seen again in NASCAR unless series officials relax the rule that limits veteran Cup drivers to no more than five Truck and five Xfinity races a season.

So just as Richard Petty’s record of 200 Cup wins is viewed as one that will not be broken — because the number of races was cut from more than 60 to 36 — Busch’s ever-increasing total also will be one that will never be touched. The next closest active driver to Busch is Harvick, who has 110 combined wins in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks. The active driver after Harvick is Jimmie Johnson with 84 wins (83 in Cup and one in Xfinity).

3. Aggressive driving

Xfinity rookie Harrison Burton had an interesting take on aggressive driving when asked about it earlier this week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track” show. This is what he said:

“I think that aggression is becoming more and more acceptable in our sport,” Burton said. “From my perspective last year in the Truck Series, Ross Chastain came in and was the most aggressive guy, right? Everyone was like mad at him for like two weeks. After that, it was like ‘OK, why don’t we all race like that?’ and then it just turned up the wick of the flame and everyone kind of rose to that level and it made the racing a lot tougher, a lot more challenging, a lot more fun and it was good for the overall racing in Truck Series.

“I think that has kind of happened everywhere, not necessarily because of Ross, but the packages and the way things have been changing in the sport. It’s super aggressive now, which is super fun. That’s becoming a little bit more acceptable, but you also have to still use your head and respect the guys that have been there for years and years before you and try to find a balance there.”

4. Where’s the tax benefits?

Eddie Gossage, president and general manager of Texas Motor Speedway, raised questions this week during TMS’ media day about the need for a better infrastructure near the track with the development that has taken place.

“Our local, state and federal officials have collected our tax money and spent it somewhere else apparently because they’re not building us roads,” Gossage said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram“We desperately need roads improved yesterday.”

Gossage went on to say:

“It’s just inappropriate for the elected officials and the bureaucrats to have that kind of development without building the proper infrastructure to support it. I call on all of them to get out here today to start building those roads because it doesn’t matter if you’re a business or a resident, there’s too little concrete out here to get where you need to get going.”

5. Testing

William Byron will stay in California longer after Sunday’s race to test the Next Gen car on Monday and Tuesday.

He’ll become the fourth driver to test the car. Austin Dillon drove it at Richmond in October, Joey Logano tested it at Phoenix in December, and Erik Jones drove it at Homestead in January.

NASCAR’s next test after the Auto Club test is scheduled to take place March 16-17 at Atlanta.

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Speedy Cash expands deal with Front Row Motorsports, John Hunter Nemechek

John Hunter Nemechek
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After sponsoring John Hunter Nemechek in two of his first three Cup Series starts last year, Speed Cash has expanded its backing of Nemechek for the 2020 season, Front Row Motorsports announced Friday.

Speedy Cash, an omni-channel financial services provider specializing in short-term loans, will be on Nemechek’s No. 38 Ford for multiple races, including events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

It will serve as an associate sponsor throughout the year for both Nemechek and Michael McDowell and his No. 34 Ford Mustang team.

Speedy Cash sponsored Nemechek last November in his Cup debut at Texas Motor Speedway and in the season finale at Miami. Nemechek finished 21st at Texas, the best of his three starts filling in for Matt Tifft in the No. 36 Ford after he stepped out of the car due to suffering a seizure.

Nemechek will be part of a deep rookie class in Cup this year after he raced full-time for GMS Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2019.

“As a driver, partnerships like this one with Speedy Cash are so important to our entire team,” Nemechek said in a press release. “It’s always great to see partners expanding their involvement in the sport. For me, Speedy Cash is pretty cool. If you need cash, there are so many easy ways you can get it using their services. I enjoyed getting to know them in the last few races of the 2019 season and we’re going to work hard to make them proud in 2020.”


Matt Tifft reveals he suffered another seizure

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Matt Tifft revealed Thursday night that he suffered another seizure on Dec. 12 while on his honeymoon.

Tifft, 23, suffered a seizure Oct. 26, 2019 at Martinsville Speedway, forcing him out of his Front Row Motorsports ride for the rest of the NASCAR Cup season. He and the team announced Nov. 13 that they would end their agreement so Tifft could focus on his health.

In a social media post Thursday, Tifft detailed what happened Dec. 12 and afterward:

“This one rocked me pretty badly, as I was conscious for a lot more of the convulsions, and it really has taken everything in me to return to feeling somewhat “normal.”

Tifft also said the experience has haunted him.

“Anxiety, PTSD, fear or whatever you call it of that seizure has played through my head nearly everyday. Luckily, these last few weeks I’ve finally seen improvements after going to therapy and trying to “rewire” my brain. It started off really rough, where I could hardly leave my house without having intense anxiety and panic attacks about having another seizure, which I have never had in my life before.

“I’m committed to “rewiring” my brain and to restore my mental health. I’ve never suffered a mental illness before. Even with the brain tumor in 2016 and first seizure, I never had these effects. I never knew how debilitating it could feel to live with constant fear and anxiety.

“But now, I do see a light in this getting better, however as I continue with this road to recovery with these issues and finding answers, I just wanted to make it know that my deepest sympathy goes out to those who deal with these issues on an everyday basis, and I can’t thank my wife; family and friends enough for their continued support.”

Tifft had surgery to remove a tumor in his brain July 21, 2016. He returned racing. He placed sixth in points in the Xfinity Series in 2018. Tifft competed in Cup in 2019 as a rookie until his seizure at Martinsville.