Matt Tifft fastest overall in testing at Kentucky; well under track record

Matt Tifft fastest overall in testing at Kentucky; well under track record

SPARTA, Ky. (Sept. 20, 2016) - On July 1 of this year, Matt Tifft was in surgery to remove a benign brain tumor from his lower right temple. Less than three months removed, Tifft was fastest overall in ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards open testing at Kentucky Speedway Tuesday. The Hinckley, Ohio driver was also well under the one-lap track record set by Parker Kligerman back in 2009.

Tifft, in the No. 28 Braingear Chevrolet, circled the 1.5-mile speedway in 29.618 seconds, an average speed of 182.322 mph. Tifft was one of five drivers unofficially under the track record. The current record is 30.126 seconds (179.247 mph).

“Yeah, it was pretty good," Tifft said. "You know I’ve been here a couple of times with the old track so this is my first time getting on the new surface. Earlier this year I was supposed to do the truck race here so it’s my first time. To go on the new pavement...that was a little bit of learning curve today. But joining Ranier Racing for the first time is pretty cool to be out here for the ARCA Series and then we’re racing with Joe Gibbs Racing the next day in the Xfinity Series, too, so a big weekend for us.”

No doubt the speed charts were enhanced today as a result of the new pavement that went down this spring.

“You know it’s still got some of the same characteristics to it…the banking going into three is still a pretty difficult corner because it’s so easy to overdrive, and then one and two still have a lot of banking in them so it’s still got unique characteristics to it to make it a tricky place. It’s still a lot of fun here.”

Austin Cindric, in the No. 99 Cunningham Motorsports Ford, was also unofficially under the track record with a time of 29.637 seconds, an average speed of 182.205 mph. Cindric, second on the overall speed chart, spun off turn four late in the afternoon session but made no contact.

Rookie Zane Smith, making his first superspeedway attempt, was third fastest overall in a Venturini Motorsports Toyota.

“When we first unloaded it took some getting used to," Smith said. "It’s definitely a lot different than anything that I’ve really done. We’ve definitely made a lot of gains throughout the day. We started out really tight...then we just kept working on it and working on it and now we’re right where I want to be. I mean I’m really looking forward to Friday night.”

The 17-year-old driver made his ARCA debut at Salem in early September, finishing ninth. Today's test was all about gaining approval in order to make his superspeedway debut in the Crosley 150 Friday night at Kentucky.

“Just as much seat time as possible, really. I kept telling them over the radio when they kept asking what I needed…really just laps. There’s just so much that you can learn every time you go out. Like three and four after the repave was really line sensitive on entry and that’s one of the biggest things to get a hold of and then down in one and two it’s not so tricky. I think those last few runs were our best runs throughout the day. We’re very consistent and I’m definitely happy with it."

Kyle Weatherman, in his own No. 10 Ford, was fourth fastest, but a brush with the turn four wall on exit ended his day sooner than he intended. His car sustained minimal right-side damage and will be plenty ready in time for the race.

Rookie Bret Holmes, in his first Kentucky appearance, was fifth overall in the No. 23 Bret Holmes Racing Chevrolet.

“It’s definitely cool, especially with the repave…it’s faster than what I expected," Holmes said. "This is my first time really on any intermediate track at all so it’s been a really big learning experience for me…different than anything I’ve ever done. All I’ve done is short track racing so I’ve learned a lot today. I definitely think we’re really close judging from our quick time. I mean, we’ve got a top-five time right there. We’re definitely pretty close and I think we’ll be in contention for the win if I just get a little bit more experience."

Rookie Myatt Snider was sixth fastest in the No. 22 Cunningham Motorsports Ford.

“I feel like I’ve been struggling just a bit learning intermediate tracks, but this one has been pretty easy," Snider said. "I’ve been liking it quite a bit. The guys from Cunningham Motorsports and Louisiana Hot Sauce brought a really good car so I’ve been pretty happy with it…just have to ease into everything and learn it the best I can. We were getting up to speed pretty quickly.”

Snider never raced on the old surface but he knows he likes the new.

“The track’s pretty smooth…it’s actually got quite a bit of grip. I’ve heard all of the horror stories from everybody last year so I’m kinda glad I got to kinda avoid all of that. So I’ve been liking it quite a bit so far. It’s probably my favorite intermediate track I’ve raced all year…Pocono comes a close second but this is quite a lot of fun.”

Championship leader Chase Briscoe was expected to run among the leaders on the speed charts, but the Mitchell, Indiana rookie slapped the wall in turn two before making a complete lap.

“I’m not really sure what happened," Briscoe said. "We went into turn one and it just never turned. We think it may have bottomed the whole car out and just launched it up the racetrack. It’s definitely unfortunate, but that’s just part of racing. I mean we can win one weekend and next weekend you’re in the wall the first lap. So, we’re gonna go back in the shop. It’s gonna be a long couple days, but we’ll be back.”

Briscoe, the winner at Chicagoland Speedway last Thursday - one of five wins on the season - carries a 560-points lead headed to Kentucky.

“That's another bright side is our whole points situation…all we have to really do is just show up. I’m glad we’re not in a tight points battle because this would definitely put us a little bit behind. Hopefully we can get her back and be just as good as we were here earlier in the (tire) test a couple weeks ago.”

John Wes Townley also made contact with the wall in turns one and two late in the afternoon session and was through for the day. Both car and driver are expected to return for the race Friday. Sarah Cornett-Ching also brushed the wall off turn four. There were no injuries.

Twenty-three drivers participated in today's open test in preparation for this Friday night's Crosley 150, under the lights at Kentucky. Currently, 35 drivers are entered for the race.

Raceday Schedule, September 23
Practice for the Crosley 150 is Friday afternoon, September 23 from 12:30 p.m. – 2:00, followed by Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell at 4:40. The Crosley 150 is scheduled to get the green flag just after 8:00.

In addition to Live Timing and Scoring and Live Chat at of all on-track activities, the Crosley 150 is live on FS2 at 8:00 p.m. eastern.

Don Radebaugh

ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards
Kentucky Speedway Open Test (Overall Results)
Sept. 20, 2016
1 28 Matt Tifft Chevrolet Composite Ilmor 29.618 182.322
2 99 Austin Cindric Ford Composite Ilmor 29.637 182.205
3 15 Zane Smith Toyota Composite Ilmor 29.942 180.349
4 10 Kyle Weatherman Ford Composite Ilmor 29.959 180.246
5 23 Bret Holmes Chevrolet Composite Ilmor 30.016 179.904
6 22 Myatt Snider Ford Composite Ilmor 30.164 179.021
7 55 Dalton Sargeant Toyota Composite Ilmor 30.256 178.477
8 32 Shane Lee Toyota Composite Ilmor 30.386 177.713
9 05 John Wes Townley Chevrolet Composite Ilmor 30.542 176.806
10 7 Codie Rohrbaugh Chevrolet Composite Ilmor 30.557 176.719
11 98 Gus Dean Chevrolet Composite Ilmor 30.656 176.148
12 25 Tom Hessert Toyota Composite Ilmor 30.697 175.913
13 69 Will Kimmel Ford Composite Ilmor 30.790 175.382
14 52 Matt Kurzejewski Toyota Composite Ilmor 30.967 174.379
15 2 Sarah Cornett-Ching Chevrolet Composite Ilmor 31.068 173.812
16 6 Josh Williams Chevrolet Composite Ilmor 31.131 173.461
17 27 A.J. Fike Ford Composite Ilmor 31.153 173.338
18 166 Mark Thompson Toyota Composite Ilmor 31.973 168.893
19 08 Nick Higdon Chevrolet Steel Ilmor 32.575 165.771
20 11 Rick Clifton Ford Steel D3 34.536 156.359
21 14 Michael Whipple Ford Steel Ilmor 34.616 155.997
22 64 Mike Senica Chevrolet Steel SB2 35.721 151.172
77 Chase Briscoe Ford Composite Ilmor No Time