front row motorsports

David Ragan, Paul Menard end full-time Cup careers in quiet fashion

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While most of the NASCAR world’s attention Sunday evening was focused on which of the Cup Series’ Championship 4 drivers would leave Miami with the title, the full-time Cup careers of two drivers quietly came to an end.

David Ragan and Paul Menard drove into sunset, ending full-time careers that each began in 2007.

After being recognized by NASCAR President Steve Phelps in the drivers meeting, Ragan’s 470th Cup start ended with a 27th-place finish, while Menard’s 471st start ended with a 17th-place run.

While Menard finished one lap down, Ragan’s night ended with him four laps off the lead pace.

“Our last race was really uneventful,” Ragan said afterward. “We tried some strategy a few times and it kind of bit us. We probably lost a lap or two that we shouldn’t have, but we were being aggressive because we didn’t really have anything to lose. I can’t say enough about everybody at Front Row Motorsports and the NASCAR industry for making this last weekend special. It was a tough season. I wish we had some better results to show for it, but the last season won’t dictate my 13-year career. We’ve had a lot of fun, a lot of good memories and don’t regret anything that we’ve done. I’ll sleep good tonight and think a little bit over the offseason on what I want to do next year and I’m sure I’ll be around.”

To top off the occasion, soon after he exited his No. 38 Ford for the last time, Ragan swapped out his racing helmet for another form of head gear that properly conveyed his new job description, or lack thereof: a dark blue hat with the word “retired” emblazoned on it.

As for Menard, no quotes were available from the typically quiet driver after the race.

But not long before the start of Sunday’s race, the Wood Brothers Racing Twitter account produced a lengthy tweet storm thanking Menard and his family for their contributions to NASCAR and auto racing in general over the years.

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Matt Tifft, Front Row Motorsports part ways so Tifft can ‘focus on my health’

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Front Row Motorsports and driver Matt Tifft announced Wednesday they have decided to end their agreement so that Tifft can focus on his health.

Tifft, a rookie in the Cup Series, said he can’t commit to racing in 2020 following his seizure at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 26.

Tifft has been replaced by John Hunter Nemechek in the No. 36 Ford for the last two races and this weekend’s season finale in Miami.

Tifft, 23, had surgery to remove a tumor in his brain on July 21, 2016. Tifft said on Nov. 3 at Texas Motor Speedway that scans of the area where the tumor was located looked good. Tifft has shared his process since the seizure on social media.

Jeff Dennison, senior director of sales and marketing for Front Row Motorsports, said then Tifft had a two-year agreement with the team and it planned to honor that.

Statement from Matt Tifft:

“I’ve made the decision to focus on my health and there is no rush or timetable to get back behind the wheel. Because of that, I can’t commit to racing full-time in 2020. I can’t say when I’ll be ready to race again, but I believe I will come back. I love this sport, the people, and I would like to be a part of it next year in some capacity.

“I want to thank Bob Jenkins, Jerry Freeze and the entire Front Row Motorsports organization for allowing me to live my dream of racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. They are great people and it’s been awesome to race there. I look forward to what’s next in racing when the time is right.”

Statement from Bob Jenkins, Owner, Front Row Motorsports:

“Matt has always shown us a lot of determination and courage. He’s a fighter and I believe, like him, that he’ll return to driving. For now, we support Matt and his need to focus on his health and his family. Racing will be there when it’s time. We want to thank Matt and his family for being a part of Front Row Motorsports and helping us continue to grow.”

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Matt Tifft wants to race again but must find answers to what caused seizure

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Matt Tifft, who suffered a seizure last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, spoke briefly with the media Sunday morning at Texas Motor Speedway, saying “I want to be back in a race car, but I don’t care about anything else right now other than finding out what caused this.”

Tifft will miss the rest of the season. John Hunter Nemechek will drive the No. 36 for Front Row Motorsports the final three Cup races.

Tifft, who had surgery to remove a tumor in his brain on July 21, 2016, said scans of where the tumor was looked good. Tifft said he will undergo additional testing, including an EEG, which measures the electrical activity of the brain. 

“I have been through this stuff before, and I know enough to be mature and smart enough to know that my health comes first,” Tifft said. “My goal is to get back in this race car, and I want to be back as soon as I possibly can, but these next few weeks are going to be dedicated to finding answers with doctors to why this happened.

“I will get back in a car one way or another, I do honestly believe that. But I have to get my stuff figured out and see what sparked this to happen.”

Tifft stood outside the team’s No. 36 hauler as he spoke and noted he was standing about five feet from where he had his seizure last weekend.

“It is a little stressful right now and honestly just dealing with the anxiety of it,” he said. “I just have to take baby steps.”

Jeff Dennison, senior director of sales and marketing for Front Row Motorsports, stressed that Tifft has a place with the team.

“Matt came to us (this season) under a two-year agreement and we will be honoring that,” Dennison said. “We will still have Matt be here next year. That is our plan.”

John Hunter Nemechek on Cup debut at Texas: ‘This is what we all dream about’

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The car number (36) will remain the same but there’ll be a different face and body behind the wheel for this weekend’s NASCAR Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

John Hunter Nemechek will replace Matt Tifft, who will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a seizure this past weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

The 22-year-old Nemechek, who is in his first full season of racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, is looking forward to making his first career Cup start in Tifft’s place – but wishes the circumstances were a bit different.

This definitely isn’t the way any driver wants to be able to go and make their first NASCAR Monster Energy Series debut,” Nemechek told Dave Moody on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s SiriusXM Speedway. “I’m really hoping Matt is okay, gets better really soon and is back in his car as soon as possible. That’s what’s important right now.

I’m really grateful for the opportunity (to) go and make Front Row Motorsports, their partners and Matt proud in the next few weeks.”

Front Row Motorsports had to scramble to find a replacement driver after Tifft was taken to a hospital in Martinsville. Matt Crafton replaced him in this past Sunday’s Cup race there.

Fortunately for Nemechek, when Front Row came knocking, Chevrolet agreed to let its young driver go out and pilot a Ford Mustang for the remaining three Cup races – while also still driving a Chevy for GMS Racing in the Xfinity Series.

It really happened overnight,” Nemechek told Moody. “It’s just something that kind of happened. I’m really grateful for Bob Jenkins and everyone at Front Row to make this opportunity happen for myself and all of our partners in GMS Racing and for Chevrolet willing to let me go to drive a Cup car and gain some valuable experience.

Once you’re tied to a manufacturer, it’s really hard to go and drive for another one. I’m very grateful for Chevrolet and everything they’ve done for me in my career and how they’ve been loyal to myself and dedicated and pushed me through the ranks over the last couple of years and I definitely don’t want to upset them. But when this opportunity came up, we’re going to drive a Cup car. It’s pretty amazing.”

In addition to gaining his first amount of Cup experience, Nemechek also has another bit of motivation: “We’re leaving Matt’s name on the car. It’s his ride, his car. I’m just filling in, trying to get the most of what we can, run some laps and finish it off.”

Son of veteran NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek, the younger Nemechek is already feeling butterflies – and he hasn’t even gotten to the Lone Star State yet.

There most definitely is,” Nemechek said when Moody asked if he’s feeling any anxiety. “Any time you’re racing in a new series, you get butterflies. As a young guy continuing to move up the ranks, this is what we all dream about. We all want to be in the Cup Series one day, and it’s our goal when we’re running in the Xfinity and Truck series.

Growing up, I wanted to be in the top level of the sport. This weekend, there’s definitely going to be butterflies, but you just have to take what it’ll give us, try to have a solid debut, run all the laps and gain all the experience I can. You ain’t learning anything if you’re up on jack stands is what I’ve been told (by his father Joe), so we just have to go out and do the best we can.

I really like Texas Motor Speedway. It’s a great race track and a great opportunity for myself. I’ve always liked Texas ever since I was old enough to run there. I remember going there with dad and having a lot of fun with him when I was young. We’ve run really well there in the Truck Series and have run pretty well in the Xfinity Series. Should have won the Xfinity race there last year. It’s another good mile-and-a-half race track. It’s going to be exciting, for sure.”

Nemechek has had good success at Texas in the past in other series. He’s made two Xfinity Series starts there, finishing ninth (last fall) and fourth (this spring). In five Truck Series starts there, he has one top-10 and three other top-20 finishes.

While he still plans on driving the last two Xfinity races of the season for GMS Racing in addition to the last three Cup races, Nemechek does not have a contract to race for any team in any series for 2020 yet. That’s why Texas is an important litmus test of sorts.

Being able to go run in the Cup Series and be somewhat competitive and be able to go out and earn respect from the top Cup guys,” he said when asked what he hopes to achieve in Sunday’s Cup debut. “There’s guys racing for a championship right now, so you definitely don’t want to be that guy that gets in their way.

The storyline is we want to go and have a quiet weekend for us, just run as many laps as we possibly can and gain as much experience and just have a solid weekend. That’s our goal. It’s all new for me, I’ve never driven a Cup car before so it’s going to be a whole new process and whole new learning curve.”

 

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Matt Tifft will miss rest of season after suffering seizure at Martinsville

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Matt Tifft will not race the rest of the season after suffering a seizure Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, he stated in a Twitter video Tuesday. 

Tifft will continue to consult with his doctors and work with the NASCAR medical team to return to racing as soon as possible, Front Row Motorsports stated.

John Hunter Nemechek will drive the No. 36 Ford in place of Tifft the remaining three Cup races of the season.

Tifft was taken to the infield care center shortly before Cup practice Saturday at Martinsville Speedway and transported to a local hospital. He was later released and went home. Matt Crafton drove for him Sunday at Martinsville.

Tifft said in a Twitter video posted Tuesday that he was feeling fine Saturday at Martinsville and then “felt my tongue cramp up. Next thing I knew I blacked out and my crew members helped me down. Next thing I knew I woke up in the ambulance getting transported to a local hospital. I was actually out of the race because I suffered a seizure this weekend.

“Luckily, my test results with the CT scan and my MRI today on Monday showed that there’s nothing there as far as my brain tumor. Trying to find out some answers of what exactly is going on.”

He had surgery to remove a tumor in his brain on July 21, 2016. He returned to NASCAR in September 2016, competing in a Truck race at Chicagoland Speedway. Tifft has had no issues since the surgery.

He announced Jan. 9 that his recovery had gone so well that he would not have to undergo a routine followup brain scan for at least a year.

Tifft also added in his Twitter video posted Tuesday: “Appreciate your guys’ support and certainly will let you guys know as I learn more too. Unfortunately, because of this I will be missing the rest of the 2019 season. So I want to wish Front Row Motorsports and the whole 36 team the best of luck the rest of this year. Hate that I have to miss out the rest of my rookie season. The most important thing right now is my health and figuring out what is going on.”

With Tifft out, Nemechek will make his Cup debut this weekend at Texas (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN).

“This isn’t the way any driver wants to make their Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut,” said Nemechek in a statement from the team. “I am hoping that Matt feels better and can get back in his car as soon as possible. That is what is important. Hopefully I can learn a lot and make Matt, the Front Row Motorsports team and its partners proud.”

The 22-year-old Nemechek is completing his first full season in the Xfinity Series, driving for GMS Racing.