By Matt Tifft, Driver Columnist
Editor’s note: Matt Tifft, driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, shares his 2018 campaign with Motorsports Tribune as he aims for a shot at the championship.
Growing up just outside of Cleveland in Hinckley, Ohio, I have always been a diehard Cleveland sports fan. Browns, Cavs, Indians – I’m a fan of them all. However, I had never been to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course until I ran it for the first time in 2017 and finished third.
Returning home this year was something I was really looking forward to. I was going to have the opportunity to throw out the first pitch for the Cleveland Indians on August 9th and then have them on my car as part of the No. 2 Fanatics / Cleveland Indians Chevrolet Camaro. Being a season ticket holder for longer than I can remember, I never thought this was something I would have the chance to do.
Good news was I would get some practice at it thanks to an opportunity from High Voltage Karting! On Wednesday, I threw out the first pitch at the Akron Rubberducks game, the minor league team for the Indians out in Akron, Ohio. It made it over the plate just fine.
It was then time for the Indians on Thursday. Throwing out the first pitch there was probably one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking things I have done in a while, but it made it over the plate! The Indians went on to win in a walk-off home run against the Twins that day too. That made my media tour to help promote the race at Mid-Ohio a little easier to talk about!
Finally, it came time to hit the track for the weekend. Mid-Ohio is honestly one of my favorite tracks on the circuit. It’s so much more technical than Watkins Glen and takes a lot of finesse to get around there. The course is so narrow since it was built for sports cars, so when we take stock cars out there it always seems to put on a show. With 50 plus friends and family coming to watch on Saturday, I really wanted to put on a good run for everybody.
We started off Saturday great, earning our second-best starting spot of the year with fifth. I ran in the top 10 for the majority of Stage 1 and earned bonus points from that. Our No. 2 Fanatics / Cleveland Indians Chevrolet was fast and we were able to finish second in Stage 2, earning even more bonus points.
Unfortunately, while pitting between Stages 2 and 3, we had a miscue on pit road that costs us track position and shuffled us back for the start of the final stage. We were able to make most of it up but stayed out under the final yellow to get the rest of the track position back and restart second again. I didn’t have the tires to stay up in that spot for the remaining laps but was able to maintain a spot in the top five until the checkered flag flew.
We’re getting closer to grabbing a win with the No. 2 team every week. We’ll keep working at it and hopefully heat up at the right time as we enter the Playoffs next month. Before that though, we’ll have one last shot a road course with Road America in a couple weeks. If we run like how we did this past weekend, I can’t wait to get out there.