Tifft, like many others on Tuesday, feels like it won’t be necessary to win to advance out of the first elimination round, but said that he knows his team needs to step up their game to contend for the championship in the end.
“We need to go run inside the top five for each and every one of these weeks, especially to move on to the second round,” he said. “Once you get into the second round, we’ve got to be knocking on the door of winning some races.”
“We’ve got to be able to move up to that point, get a little bit quicker and just be a little bit more solid throughout the whole weekend. I think as long as we keep on doing that and stay out of trouble, that’s the biggest thing. As long as we stay out of trouble and run where our cars should, I think we’ll have a great playoff run.”
It’s a bit of a different world for the 21-year-old this year, though, being the only driver out of the JGR stable contending for a driver’s championship.
Some have labeled Tifft as a long shot, an underdog, by virtue of the fact that he’s a rookie and he doesn’t have a full-time teammate to lean on going through the playoffs.
He says it’s a tale of two stories though.
“I guess it’s a mixed answer,” Tifft explained. “On one hand, we’re Joe Gibbs Racing — most of the time we are dominating the XFINITY Series. It’s absolutely incredible, our equipment. To say an underdog in that regard? No, we’re not an underdog. But are we an underdog in the fact that … if I was able to go out there and prove what I hope and think that I can do and go win a championship, would it be unexpected to a lot of people? Sure.”
“There’s the underdog story, if you’re looking at it that way. Our equipment – you can win championships with and it’s right up there with people who we are competing against for the championship. That’s not to say that we’re completely miles ahead either, because these guys have been tough to beat this year. We know that we’re going to be up against some stiff competition and some tough situations, so we’ll see what happens.”
But at the end of the day, the Hinckley, Ohio young gun is just glad to be in the position that he’s in — healthy, competitive and with a shot to prove to the world what he’s capable of.
“Like I’ve said before, I’m blessed to be doing what I’m doing,” Tifft said. “That’s the main thing.”
“I’d love to be able to go and be a champion for all those who have gone through things similar to me in the brain tumor world. I’d like to be able to go out and prove myself for that reason, but at the same time this is my rookie season and I’m just happy to be in the Playoffs. … Hopefully we’re in this spot and even stronger again next year.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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