By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
For Matt Tifft, his first trip to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course resulted in a career best finish of third. Tifft ran towards the front for most of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Mid-Ohio Challenge.
Tifft’s No. 19 Akron Community Foundation / Acquire Investment Toyota Camry ran inside the top-five throughout the course of the race. He never challenged for the lead, but ran with eventual race winner Sam Hornish, Jr., Daniel Hemric, and teammate James Davison. Pit strategy kept Tifft outside of the top-10 at the end of both stages one and two.
Crew chief Matt Beckman’s pit strategy also kept Tifft out of trouble. Three separate times Tifft was ahead of incidents that wiped out as many as 13 of his competitors. He narrowly missed one incident when Justin Marks was spun in front of the field off turn two.
Tifft admitted that the race was more about survival,
“It was surviving for a while. I knew this race was going to get crazy, so I was just trying to play defense for a while. I knew guys were going to take each other out and I was just trying to play it smart. It’s really cool to have Akron Community Foundation and Acquire Investments on here. I’m from an hour from here, so to have such a good run today in Ohio was pretty sweet. We needed this one. We got to get some momentum headed towards the playoffs, so this is definitely good for our team, so happy about that.”
This was the first top-five finish and fifth top-10 of the 2017 season for Tifft. This was also his first top-five since the standalone Kentucky Speedway Xfinity Series race last September. For Tifft, this was his second career top-five and 11th career top-10.
Tifft remains in the seventh position in the championship points standings, 269 behind Elliott Sadler. He is 118-points ahead of Ryan Sieg who is 13th in points, the first driver on the outside, looking in, for the Playoffs.
With the Playoffs looming, Tifft was honest that he is feeling the pressure,
“Obviously there’s pressure when you’re going into any championship formation. We knew we needed runs like this and we have to carry that the rest of the season from this point. If we can keep doing that, this last month we’ve had much faster Camrys. If we can keep that up, the pressure comes easier. We just have to go out and do my job rather than go for something.”
Now Tifft, Beckman, and the entire Joe Gibbs Racing team will look to carry their momentum into Bristol Motor Speedway.