CONCORD, N.C. — When Matt Tifft suffered a seizure on Oct. 26, 2019 ahead of a NASCAR Cup Series event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, it was unknown what his future would hold.
Fast-forward more than a year later and Tifft, 24, is NASCAR’s youngest team owner after formally introducing Live Fast Motorsports alongside team co-owner and driver B.J. McLeod on Friday.
“I talked about in previous years many years down the road before my health problems came up that I’d love to be an owner in this sport,” said Tifft. “I love NASCAR and I saw the pattern of what was happening between the other new owners and the things going on in the sport and just always thought I’d love to be a part of that side post-driving.”
Unfortunately for Tifft, his post-driving career came sooner than he expected.
At the time of his seizure, Tifft was nearing the end of his rookie campaign at NASCAR’s top level with Front Row Motorsports. A few weeks later, the two sides parted ways so Tifft could focus on his health and recovery.
It was another bump in the road for Tifft, who underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his brain in 2016. He recovered from that surgery and returned to racing but following his seizure he knew he needed to focus on his health.
Yet, he wanted to remain involved in the sport, a sport that he had worked so hard to become a part of.
“I explored all kinds of avenues, whether that was being involved from a PR standpoint or sponsor standpoint,” Tifft said about his desire to remain involved in racing. “I looked at some driver coaching stuff. I couldn’t drive, so when you spend your entire life being a driver, it’s pretty hard. When you’re 23 years old, you’re not thinking in your head, ‘OK, this is it. I’m gonna retire after this year.’ But the situation was thrown in there to where I’m not cleared to drive.
“I couldn’t drive, so I went through several months in there, one, I was dealing with the health problems, but two, kind of a dark space of I’ve worked my entire life to get here and all of a sudden it’s gone. So, I really worried about it because I wanted to be a part of NASCAR.”
The partnership with McLeod, which saw them purchase the NASCAR Cup Series charter previously used by Go Fas Racing, allows Tifft to stay involved in NASCAR as an owner. Tifft said the deal, which also involves longtime NASCAR team owner Joe Falk, came together after a dinner conversation.
“We were at dinner one night and started talking about, ‘Hey, maybe this is something we’d like to do in the future,’ we didn’t think it was gonna come as quick as it did,” Tifft said. “I’m just so excited to be a team owner in the NASCAR Cup Series and I wouldn’t be wanting to do it with anybody else. B.J. is a great guy, but also more than that a great businessman and knows how to run a team. I just can’t wait to get this venture started.”
While Tifft has a lot on his plate as a team owner at NASCAR’s highest level, he’s still focused on his health and recovery. Tifft recently participated in a study to better understand his brain functions and he continues to work with experts to better understand the health issues he’s battling.
“This summer we did a big study up in Cleveland at University Hospital to learn more about what was happening inside my brain,” Tifft explained. “They had a general idea, but to be honest, we don’t completely know what was happening or why things are happening, so, like I said earlier, I have to err on the side of caution.
“To say I’m fully healed, typically you have to go through a period of being a year or two years of being seizure-free before they say, ‘Hey, this is a really low chance this would happen again.’ So it’s an interesting thing in there because, really, a seizure is basically a surge protector,” Tifft continued. “When it trips that, you think of a computer, when it trips the surge protector it’s doing it so your house doesn’t burn down and doesn’t blow the electrical fuses in there, and that’s something that I didn’t know before. So, it’s actually a protective mechanism, but in that it’s electrical activity that wasn’t going right, so we don’t know exactly what caused it or why it happened, but I’m feeling good.”
Regardless of his health issues, Tifft says he is happy to be back in NASCAR.
“I’m able to wake up every day knowing that I have a fantastic life and a great partner here with B.J. and an awesome wife and lots of dogs and cats,” Tifft said. “I’m very thankful for where I am and, yeah, I might not be Matt the race car driver right now, but to be in a place where health-wise I can be running a NASCAR team alongside B.J. here, I’d say everything is alright.”