Kyle Larson, Chad Hackenbracht and Matt Tifft Get Chance at NASCAR DreamBy Mary Jo Buchanan
The future young guns of NASCAR, Kyle Larson, Chad Hackenbracht and Matt Tifft, all have one thing in common. The trio is getting their chance to achieve their NASCAR dreams.
Just a short time ago, about a year in fact, Kyle Larson stepped into a stock car to race for the first time. Now, the 20 year old up and comer has scored a full-time Nationwide Series ride through a partnership between Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Turner Scott Motorsports.
Larson’s quick rise in the NASCAR ranks came after winning the K&N Pro Series East title. Then, in just four races in the Camping World Truck Series, the youngster finished top-ten three times and was runner up at the Phoenix race.
Larson will be paired with crew chief Trent Owens, who posted the following message on Facebook, “Very excited about the announcement that I’ll be the crew chief for Kyle Larson in Nationwide at Turner Scott Motorsports this year!! Also back to the number 32 that has a special place with me. Hoping this season will be a great one. So pumped!!”
Although quite not so effusive, Chip Ganassi, a champion owner in his own right, is looking forward to the continuing development of his newest young talent.
“We feel that he’s certainly capable of it,” Ganassi said. “I don’t think we’re rushing him along or anything like that.”
“Like I said, he’s shown great ability in anything he’s driven so far.”
Larson, on the other hand, knows that with the spotlight and the opportunity comes quite a bit of pressure.
“I know I have a lot of pressure on me,” Larson said. “I try not to pay attention to it at all.”
“Every week, I just try to go out and do the best I can,” Larson continued. “I try to finish in the top 10 in each race an log as many laps as I can.”
“Each lap is just going to help me develop as a driver,” Larson said. “I’m going to need that since I’m really young and hopefully will be in a sport a long time.”
“I will just try to develop as much as I can this year and do better in the future.”
Joining Kyle Larson in the Nationwide Series will be another young gun with a very interesting last name. TriStar Motorsports announced that Chad Hackenbracht will join the team for at least five Nationwide races.
Hackenbracht has raced most recently in the ARCA Series for his family’s team, scoring one trip to victory lane, two poles, five top-five finishes and 12 top-ten finishes. He completed the ARCA season top five in the championship point standings.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Hackenbracht said. “I have not run any NASCAR events and I’m excited to make my debut in the Nationwide Series with an established team.”
“My expectations are to finish every race I run this year, qualify in the top-20 and pull off top-15 finishes,” Hackenbracht continued. “The Nationwide Series is going to be very competitive this year but I’m ready for the challenge.”
Hackenbracht’s team owner is also excited with his new addition and with being a part of the youngster’s development in the sport.
“We are really looking forward to having Chad join our team,” Mark Smith said. “He has already shown that he has a lot of talent behind the wheel of a stock car.”
“We are excited to help him develop his skills and give him his first opportunity to race in NASCAR,” Smith continued. “He will have some veteran guidance, which should help him as he takes the next step in his racing career.”
The youngest up and comer of the bunch is Matt Tifft, who at just sixteen years of age will be moving up this season from the ARCA Midwest Tour to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Tifft will be racing full-time in that Series, which has catapulted other drivers such as Martin Truex Jr. to the highest level of the sport.
Tifft will partner with Shane Tesch, a NASCAR veteran, to compete for the Rookie of the Year honors behind the wheel of the No. 89 Chevrolet Impala.
“In the last couple months we have been working on this deal,” Tifft said. “The K&N Series is the next thing we wanted to do so when it came together with Win-Tron, it was a really good fit.”
Tifft started racing young as his father owned a dirt late model and raced in Michigan. In 2007, when he was eleven years old, Tifft jumped into a go kart and fell in love with racing in his own right.
“I always watched NASCAR, but I was hooked at that point,” Tifft said.
Since then, Tifft has run in several karting series, as well as late model racing, before racing on the ARCA Midwest Tour. The teen scored Rookie of the Year honors in that series in his first ever points series season and finished fifth in points.
“It’s the right time to move up to the K&N Series,” Tifft said. “It’s better to get more experience in the bigger, heavier cars in a NASCAR series.”
And just who might some of Tifft’s heroes be in the racing world? One of them is a driver that is joining him in the move up in his NASCAR career.
“I’ve watched drivers like Kyle Larson and watching him go through and get the experience in the K&N Series is what helped attract me,” Tifft said.
“It’s a really cool deal to build up that experience.”
Tifft, like Larson and Hackenbracht, is all about learning, growing and just fine-tuning skills behind the wheel. He summed it up best for himself and his fellow racing compatriots who will be racing at the next level this season.
“I know I have a lot of learning to do,” Tifft said simply. “But I’m up to the challenge.”