Ford Performance NASCAR: Daytona 500 Media Day (Matt Tifft)

MATT TIFFT, No. 36 Ford Mustang — WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500? “It would be amazing. It would be awesome to be in position at the end of the race and have a shot. That is the first goal, to have a chance at the end. You have to be there to have a shot. I am going to try to be smart all day. It will be my first 500-mile race. We are trying to be strategic and smart with our strategy. You never know what might happen.”

MICHAEL MCDOWELL SPOKE ABOUT LOOKING FORWARD TO HELPING YOU OUT AS YOUR TEAMMATE, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU? “Michael has been awesome. I knew him previously. We have been friends for years. He has been a great teacher and has taught me about everything I know about road courses. I worked with him in 2017 and he made me so much better. He is such a great teacher. David Ragan has been awesome too and he is such a great plate racer. The biggest thing they have been able to offer up is just open insight of anything I have questions about and answering those things while also offering their own advice of different situations we are going through in speedweeks and their takes on it. They have been great about helping me and I am sure I will rely on them a lot through the whole season. It is important for me to keep asking them questions and work with them well.”

HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR CHANCES FOR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR? “Well, I have raced with all the other guys in the past and they are both great drivers. I think the exciting part of it is that we have raced hard together in the Xfinity Series. We have all been around each other. It is going to come down to the new rules package and what that will be like through the course of the season and which teams and organizations pick it up. Honestly, sitting here today, I think anybody has a shot at it. It is an exciting rookie class and a fun group that has been together in the past before so I think that is the exciting part about it. We have raced so hard in the past and now we are taking it to the Cup series.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING THE UNDERDOG OF THE GROUP? “I will take that on. Sure, why not. We know that with Front Row Motorsports we are growing and getting better and the cool thing about it is being a mid-tier team, the potential with this new package and everything is unlimited. We don’t know how we will shake out in this deal but we have a lot of smart people. Mike Kelly, my crew chief, is such a smart guy. We have a change to do something special. I don’t know if it will be this year or next year, or how that grows, but that is the fun and exciting part about being a part of this group.”

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WHAT WILL MAKE THIS A SUCCESSFUL ROOKIE CAMPAIGN FOR YOU? “I think honestly we need to get through the west coast swing and set specific goals from there. We will learn the packages and things as we go along. For myself, it is going to be competing week in and week out, running near my teammates in the beginning and then racing with our Roush affiliated teammates after that. Trying to improve our team. I can’t say a specific number or goal yet. If this was last year I think it would be easier to predict but with the new packages I think there are too many unknowns.”

DO YOU THINK THE NEW PACKAGE COULD HELP SOME OF THE MID-TIER TEAMS POINT THEIR WAY INTO THE PLAYOFFS? “I think they have a shot, yeah. You can see even watching Vegas testing, you can be trimmed out and have a fast car. If you have a strategy play and pull away for a few laps you have a shot at winning a race there. It will be interesting. I think the cream will rise to the top. It is going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out all year long. Certainly as a mid-tier team, we do have a better shot at making a strategy play or doing something that can put us more in the mix of the top-five or top-10 on the right day.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “As we go along we will be aggressive to try to get the best finishes we can. The top-25 points deal was a big deal for the organization last year and we are shooting for that again this year. It is the little things that are going to add up to good days. We have to execute those things the right way.”

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE FIRST 10 OR 12 RACES OF THE SEASON? “We have been through a ton as a team. We have added myself to the program with the third team. We have assembled an entire group that has been working together less than 30 days now. We have a brand new race shop. We have the Mustang in there now. There is so much going on. The practice session last weekend went almost flawlessly. That is awesome. Mike Kelly has put together an awesome group. It is going to be a challenge to get going right in the beginning. We need to manage our expectations through the west coast and take it week to week. We will be able to adjust and actually set real goals after the west coast swing and around Easter to where we will be much more in a rhythm at that point.”

IS THIS THE ULTIMATE, TO BE HERE TODAY AFTER WHERE YOU WERE A COUPLE YEARS AGO? “Yeah, absolutely. To be sitting here getting ready to drive the Daytona 500 after being told I would never drive a race car again, it is exciting. It is nerve-racking, it is every emotion you can think of. This is my dream to be here, race in the 500 and the Cup Series and because of what I went through I want to do a good job. I want to make sure I can do everything in my power to do the best job I can as a race car driver.”

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