Mid-Race Accident Spoils Top-Five Run for Tifft
Making his second start for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM), 18-year-old Matt Tifft had an impressive top-five run going in the Drivin' for Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., until he lost several positions on pit road near the halfway mark of the event when his ToyotaCare Tundra fell off the jack before the completion of his pit stop. Tifft took the lap-87 restart from the 12th position and five laps later while trying to work his way back towards the front of the field was involved in an accident in Turn 1. The damage to his Toyota was unfixable and he ended the night with a disappointing 25th-place finish.
"We kind of got back in traffic just after the pit stop there and I got into Turn 1 and I got underneath the 13 (Cameron Hayley) and I thought I had the position for a split second and I just didn't and he came down enough to where I had to stand on the brakes and by the time I got into him it was just too late," Tifft said. "I hate it for our guys, we really had a good run going in our ToyotaCare Tundra."
Making his first start in any series at the 1.25-mile track, the Ohio native used 38 laps of practice Saturday morning to familiarize himself with nuances of the flat oval. He continually gained confidence throughout the lone practice session and turned his fastest lap, 33.160 seconds at 135.706 seconds on his final circuit around the Illinois track to post the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra eighth on the leaderboard. His movement up the charts proved to be valuable later in the day when qualifying was washed out and the field was set by practice speeds.
Despite indicating that his Tundra was loose-handling at both ends, Tifft was able to gain two positions during a long green-flag run to start the race. He was scored in the sixth position when the first caution of the race occurred on lap 52. Crew chief Jerry Baxter summoned his young driver to pit road, where the over-the-wall crew made a speedy four-tire and fuel stop, which included a chassis adjustment to try and tighten the truck up for the ensuing run.
Tifft took the lap-62 restart from the third position, but had gotten shuffled back to fifth when the race was slowed for the second time on lap 80. Despite losing a couple of spots, the talented teenager communicated that the chassis adjustment had improved the handling of his ToyotaCare Tundra and he needed no further adjustments this time down pit road. Before the over-the-crew could complete the four-tire stop, the jack slipped off the bolt and the truck fell to the ground. After the crew recovered and completed the service, their driver returned to the track in the 12th position.
Knowing that passing was at a premium, Tifft tried to advance back through the field quickly. He saw an opening to the inside of Cameron Hayley on lap 91, but before he was able to make the pass the hole closed. Tifft nailed the brakes to try and avoid contact with his fellow Toyota competitor, but the two trucks made contact and the No. 51 Tundra was sent crashing into the wall between Turns 1 and 2. The contact caused terminal damage to the front end of the truck and the team ended the night in the garage.
Cole Custer picked up the second win of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career. Spencer Gallagher finished in the runner-up spot. Johnny Sauter crossed the stripe in the third position, while John Hunter Nemechek and Cameron Hayley rounded out the top-five finishers. Tifft's KBM teammates Erik Jones Tifft and Justin Boston were both involved in accidents and finished 23rd and 27th, respectively.
The eighth race of the 2015 season featured six cautions for a total of 35 laps. There were nine lead changes among five drivers.
Christopher Bell will make his Truck Series debut behind the wheel of the No. 51 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Tundra June 19 at Iowa Speedway in Newton. Live coverage of the American Ethanol 200 begins with the NCWTS Setup Show at 8 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. Tifft's next start for the team will come July 22 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
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