Photo: Chris Owens/ASP, Inc.
Photo: Chris Owens/ASP, Inc.

Matt Tifft Column: Overcoming Obstacles & Returning to Top 10 Form in Iowa

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. 

This past weekend we had our first standalone weekend of the year as we headed to Iowa Speedway. This was a track I felt like I excelled at last year, so I was really looking forward to getting back there this year.

Standalone weekends are always special to Xfinity regulars. As a driver, you know that by being the main show all the fans are coming to see you, not someone else. With the Cup drivers not in the field, it’s also a good shot for us to shine and show what we can do, which would hopefully end with bringing home a win.

Coming off two of our rougher weekends this year, my team and I were really looking to get back on track with a top-10 finish at Iowa Speedway. We were able to successfully do that this weekend with a ninth-place finish, but it didn’t come without obstacles!

Our No. 2 Wastebits Chevrolet Camaro was good on Saturday during practice. We had great long run speed, but we just needed a bit more rear grip to help with the shorter runs and firing off.

We qualified well on Sunday, making all three rounds and grabbing the 12th spot. However, right before the race started we were informed NASCAR did not approve of our side skirts, and we would be forced to start from the rear of the field. I felt confident that we’d be able to get back up through the field – we’d just have to pass a lot more cars than we were planning on for the day.

With the long green flag runs in Stage 1, I was able to race up to the 15th spot before the stage ended. After pitting for four fresh tires, fuel and a couple adjustments, I exited pit road only to find my new left front tire was already going flat on me. This made me hit pit road again for the second time during the stage break to get a replacement tire. Turns out a lug nut got stuck in the tire and shredded it up right away. This set us back in the field again and forced us to race up through it for the second time that day.

Lucky for us, there weren’t too may cautions in Sunday’s race, so with our great long run speed I was able to break back into the top-10 during the final stage and maintain my position there. I wish that final caution hadn’t come out with about 12 laps to go since that restart set us back a couple spots, but I’m proud of my team’s effort and drive. I think that really helped us hang on and score a top-10 finish with ninth place. We had to make the best of a tough race and overcame a lot of challenges to get it. I think we passed more cars on Sunday than we have in a long time!

I’m really looking forward to getting back to Iowa at the end of July. I think it’s a great place for the Xfinity drivers to shine and a track where we see some of the best racing of the season.

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