DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- When the Monster Energy Cup cars roll to the green flag on Sunday afternoon, Hinckley, Ohio native Matt Tifft will be among the 40 drivers vying for the sport's top prize.
“It’s special to race here and it’s really cool but there is nothing like the Daytona 500," said Tifft. "I still don’t know what that is going to be like on Sunday.”
Tifft will race for the first time in the Monster Energy Cup Series on Sunday. He’s been racing in the Xfinity NASCAR Series the past few years but will debut in his Ford #36.
“Everybody knows what the Daytona 500 is and to win that would be absolutely incredible," Tifft said.
The 22-year-old is a graduate of Highland High School. He’s part of the youth movement sweeping through NASCAR.
He started his racing career at Barberton Speedway with open tryouts. He advanced to go-kart racing in Ohio and Pennsylvania before moving up to late models and now NASCAR.
“You have to be persistent and have long term planning and that dream and that vision is something I always had to make sure i was always working towards," Tifft said.
Tifft's racing career took a major turn in 2016 when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was told he would never race again. Tifft has since beat his brain tumor and is both healthy and stable.
Now, three years later, he’s using his NASCAR platform for something bigger.
“I've been to Congress, talked to Congress men and women about reform and change for finding more cures for treatment and so, it’s been a big passion of mine," said Tifft.
“We were watching that Thursday night vs. Jets game and I have never seen a team change so quickly with one quarterback coming into that huddle, I thought that was pretty cool," Tifft said.
Tifft will start 33rd for Sunday’s Great American Race.