NASCAR

After NASCAR career was stalled by seizures, Hinckley native Matt Tifft moves into the owner’s seat

www.crainscleveland.com

The transition from driver to owner is far from easy. For Tifft, it could be even more difficult, since he is only 15 months removed from a racing career that he thought would continue well into his 30s.

Tifft was diagnosed with epilepsy last year, and he’s been outspoken about the anxiety and panic attacks he’s battled since he was forced to stop racing. He’s had six additional seizures (including one on his honeymoon in December 2019) since the episode in Martinsville, though he’s encouraged that the most recent ones he’s suffered have been milder than the previous versions.

Tifft said he participated in a study at University Hospitals that resulted in a change from a “generalized approach to a focal point approach,” as well as a switch in medications. His past two seizures have lasted about a minute (down from five), and he retained consciousness throughout the last episode, which was a first.

“When I had the brain tumor in 2016, it was easier to talk about because it was tangible. I saw where it was, and when it was gone, I had a timeline of what I was supposed to do. That made it a lot easier,” Tifft said. “This is a hidden thing, and I don’t know where it comes from. It took a long time to accept that, but it’s starting to feel more like I’m in a good place to talk about it and accept it.”

He still can’t drive, which, his father notes, is lucrative for Uber and Lyft. Matt purchased a Tesla and hopes that as his health improves, he will be allowed to get behind the wheel and have the car’s autonomous technology serve as an emergency backup.

He credits the support of his wife, Jordan, and family for helping him deal with all of the health problems. And he has plenty of things to keep him distracted, from NASCAR to a Cleveland sports-centric web series he co-hosts and even an appearance in an upcoming movie — “The Hunting,” which stars friend and former Browns running back Peyton Hillis.

Like everything else, Tifft is frank about Live Fast’s expectations for its debut season in the ultra-competitive Cup Series. He calls 2021 “kind of a weird layover year” that will serve as the sport’s transition to a Next Gen car model that will be more expensive ($200,000 to $250,000 each, Tifft said) but is expected to at least somewhat level the playing field in 2022.

“We’re not coming out here saying we’re going to be a winning team, because we don’t have the budget to be in that place,” Tifft said.

Live Fast figures it can run in the 25th- to 30th-place range, and maybe go up a few spots if it inks more sponsorship deals.

More important for Tifft is he thinks he’s found a long-term solution for a question he had when he was forced to stop racing: “What do I do now?”

The answer wasn’t obvious at the time, but considering his previous homework, maybe it should have been.

www.crainscleveland.com

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