(FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – In just about two weeks NASCAR will return to action with the 63rd running of the Daytona 500. 24-year-old Matt Tifft will be returning to the race track not as a driver, but as the youngest team owner in the Cup Series.
“I always dreamed of being a NASCAR driver and racing in the Daytona 500,” said Tifft.
It’s a dream that became a reality in 2019 for Tifft as he piloted the #36 Ford for Front Row Motorsports. That same year his Cup series career started, it also came to a sudden stop. Before the October race at Martinsville Speedway, Tifft suffered a seizure. That December he was diagnosed with epilepsy.
“I think in my mind at that time, I didn’t accept it. I wasn’t saying this is me, I was fighting it. I was going through this mental battle of how can that be me,” said Tifft.
Tifft says he has had seven seizures since and must go six months without one before he can get back behind the wheel.
“As a NASCAR driver, it has been very tough because I have not driven a streetcar since that October. It has been a big lifestyle adjustment in things I had to do,” said Tifft.
His racing career was on hold for more than a year without any public knowledge of his diagnosis, until last week when Tifft posted a video message to social media.
Since then he has received dozens of texts and messages from those also impacted by epilepsy.
“I felt very alone with it and so to feel that there is some sense of community and there is some sense of togetherness I no longer felt the extreme anxiety I had with it because I realized other people were fighting through the same thing,” said Tifft.
Although he isn’t driving right now, Tifft will still be at this year’s Daytona 500 as a team owner of the #78 car for Live Fast Motorsports. His involvement with the team a positive and much-needed step forward.
“I have been trying to take those baby steps each day. It has helped me come back from the depression and extreme anxiety coming from the epilepsy diagnosis and to today, talking to you guys and being here is pretty amazing,” said Tifft.
B. J. McLeod will be the driver of the #78 car this season. McLeod and Tifft became close friends within the racing community and one time last year joked about owning a Cup series team at Buffalo Wild Wings. Tifft says everything was able to align when they bought an open NASCAR charter, guaranteeing them a spot in the Daytona 500 and all races for the 2021 season.