Matt Tifft prioritizing health, not worrying about return yet


FORT WORTH, Texas – It has been just a week since Matt Tifft experienced his first-ever seizure at Martinsville Speedway, and the rookie driver of the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford made it a point to return to a race track sooner rather than later for personal reasons.

Tifft, 23, flew in Sunday to Texas Motor Speedway to watch Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and addressed the media for the first time since his medical incident. Prior updates were through social media or the team.

“It’s crazy,” Tifft said. “You never know what’s going happen in life, I guess. I was just talking about simulation stuff, and next thing I know I’m on the ground. I woke up in the Martinsville (Virginia) hospital, and that’s the next thing I remember.

“Certainly glad to be back here at the track, and honestly I wanted to come back today because it’s been very stressful and a lot of anxiety just to come back. I had my seizure five feet behind me here (in the hauler). It’s a lot of facing some demons and just my own self to try to get back. Really just looking for answers now.”

RELATED: Matt Tifft sidelined for remainder of season

All of Tifft’s brain scans came back clear, showing no recurrence of the tumor that forced him to have surgery on July 1, 2016. The next step is therefore an EEG to test brain wave patterns and see if there’s an explanation for the seizure there. If not, he’ll do whatever the doctors advise.

Currently, Tifft is not cleared to drive, let alone race. The state of North Carolina has a required seizure-free period of six months.

There is no timetable on Tifft’s return overall, but he does have a future with Front Row Motorsports.

“Matt came to us under a two-year agreement, and we will be honoring that,” said Jeff Dennsion, Front Row Motorsports’ senior director of sales and marketing. “We will still have Matt here next year. That is our plan.”

Until then, Front Row Motorsports is covered when it comes to competition.

Matt Crafton filled in for Tifft last weekend at Martinsville, finishing 25th.

Then, on Tuesday, Front Row Motorsports announced full-time Xfinity Series driver John Hunter Nemechek will drive the No. 36 Ford for three races remaining in the Monster Energy Series season. Sunday’s Round of 8 playoff race will mark Nemechek’s debut in the top league. Since joining NASCAR’s national series in 2013, he has one career victory in Xfinity Series and six in the Gander Trucks Series.

“Just a whole new deal for myself being over here in the Cup garage – different type of scenarios, whole new team, different communications,” said Nemechek, who qualified 29th at 185.586 mph. “There’s a lot of variables that play into this weekend. But really thankful for the opportunity from Bob (Jenkins, owner) and everyone at Front Row Motorsports, and I hate the circumstances are like this. Really wish Matt Tifft a speedy recovery and hope he’s back at a race track really soon.”

Tifft’s session with the media was short, less than five minutes, as he is still processing everything that happened. Any further updates, though, he will post on social media.

As for right now, while he would like to get back into a race car, Tifft is prioritizing his health.

“I don’t care about anything else right now other than finding out what caused this,” Tifft said. “Because until then, nothing else matters.”