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.
As a driver, Dover International Speedway is a place that’s always circled on my calendar. It’s one of my favorite tracks we visit, and one I’ve always seemed to do well at in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Dover is just so different from anywhere else we go to on the schedule. It’s literally its own monster, so the ‘Monster Mile’ nickname fits. We go into Turn 1 and drop off almost 20 feet going into the middle of the turn there. The loads you feel at that place and how it rubbers up during a run is so different. Then, it’s like you send out an eraser during the cautions and all the rubber gets picked back up again. There’s not many places that have those challenges.
Getting your car good for the beginning of the run is very different from where it needs to be at the end of a run. As a driver, it’s tough to give feedback to the team because of that. You have to know where you want to be at the end and how to help get it there. You just can’t start off too comfortable at Dover, and that’s a challenge I really enjoy and have done well with. Going into this past weekend, I had never finished outside the top 10 in the three previous Xfinity races I had competed in at Dover. That was something I was looking to continue with my No. 2 team.
We unloaded fast on Friday, which is always a good sign. We really just needed to work on the load going through the middle of the corners, but everything else on the No. 2 Nexteer Automotive Chevrolet felt great.
We qualified well on Saturday, earning our highest starting spot of the season when we rolled off from the third position.
Unfortunately, when the race went green we fired off way too loose and I spun in the opening laps. Luckily, I managed to keep it clean and collected no damage, other than a couple flat tires. Randall (Burnett, crew chief) and my team did a great job at timing the multiple pit stops we made to change the tires so that we didn’t lose a lap under the yellow. I had to restart from the rear of the field, but I was confident I could make it back up front again.
Using an alternate pit strategy helped get us back up front for the start of Stage 2. I was able to hang on to the lead at the start of the second stage, leading multiple laps before the newer tires caught up with me. Still, we managed to stay in the top 10 for Stage 2 and collect valuable stage points.
We needed more sidebite and tightness in the car to be able to really be able to contend for the win in the end, but we did manage to grab the eighth position before the checkered flag flew on Saturday. My team has been working hard these past few weeks and we’re making improvement. Our time will come if we keep at it.
The Xfinity Series now heads into a couple off-weekends, but I’ll still be keeping busy! Today, I’m headed to Washington D.C. to help the National Brain Tumor Society persuade the Senate to pass the Childhood Cancer Star Act, which is a bipartisan act that would increase research funds with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) for the discovery of treatments for brain tumors (specifically clinical trials). It’s a really important event that I’m honored to be part of.
After that, it’s off to the beach for a mini-vacation before the madness of Charlotte race week kicks in!