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.
Advancing to the Round of 8 in our 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs campaign was a definite goal of ours, and now that we’ve achieved that it’s time for us to focus on maximizing this opportunity to make it to the Championship Four and contend for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Our most recent race at Dover International Speedway was not as strong as we hoped it would be. We just seemed to be lacking the speed we had there during the spring race, which made the cut-off spot to advance to the next round a lot closer than we anticipated. Luckily, my team and I were able to do what we needed to do to make it through to this next round, and we can have a bit of a reset with this race at Kansas Speedway.
This past off-weekend came at the right time for us in a way. We were able to analyze Dover and prep for the next round of playoffs a little bit more in depth than if we had another race to get to that weekend.
Coming into the Round of 8, I believe we need to be running in the top-five every week in order to be in contention for one of the Championship Four spots. Stage points will be even more key during this round. It could make or break someone’s chance to transfer to the final round. We could have a solid day by finishing seventh at a track, but if we don’t maximize our stage points and go for stage wins, someone who finished behind us may finish higher in the standings than us.
Last year at Kansas Speedway, it was a good weekend for me. I finished eighth, which was my best finish out of five starts at the track across multiple series. I feel much more confident heading back there this year, seeing as we’ve been strong at intermediate tracks. I think we have a good chance to really maximize our race there.
This weekend at Kansas also serves as an important weekend since we run the high-line so much, it almost works as a Homestead-Miami Speedway test session because of that and is a good chance for us to check in on where we think we’ll be for that weekend.
We had a strong run at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year, finishing sixth there. We fought hard for that finish too and had to overcome some adversity. My Chevrolet Camaro was super loose all race long, almost like something had broken on it, but my team rallied, and we got as much out of the day as we could. Heading back, I know what I want and need out of my car to run well there.
This Round of 8 closes at ISM Raceway, which was another solid top-10 weekend for us earlier this year. That was one of the first weekends we had as a team together where we unloaded fast and stayed fast all weekend. That allowed us to experiment a little bit during the weekend, which should help us when we return there in a few weeks.
All in all, I think we have the potential to earn a Championship Four spot with the remaining tracks left in the schedule. We just need to keep our focus and maximize every weekend to the best of our ability. I can’t wait to get started this weekend at Kansas.