Matt Tifft out for 2019 season, John Hunter Nemechek to make Cup debut

by Justin Nguyen

Matt Tifft‘s 2019 Monster Energy Cup Series season is over. On Tuesday, he announced he would not be able to contest the remainder of the year for health reasons. In his place, John Hunter Nemechek will race in the Cup Series for the first time in the #36 Ford Mustang of Front Row Motorsports.

“After suffering a medical condition at the Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Matt Tifft continued further evaluation with family doctor’s on Monday,” an FRM statement read. “It has been determined that Tifft will not compete for the remainder of the season. He will continue to consult with his doctor’s and work with the NASCAR medical team to return to the driver’s seat as soon as possible.

On Twitter, Tifft elaborated he suffered a seizure in his hauler leading up to the First Data 500 at Martinsville, forcing him to be hospitalised. In his place, two-time Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion Matt Crafton drove the #36, where he finished twenty-fifth The seizure is unrelated to his brain tumours that forced him to miss Xfinity Series races in 2016.

Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

“I actually arrived on Saturday morning and I went into the hauler,” he explained in a video. “I was getting ready for the rookie meeting, just making my morning coffee. I felt my tongue cramp up and next thing I knew it, I blacked out. My crew guys helped me down and had the EMTs, and the next thing I knew, I woke up in the ambulance getting transported to a local hospital.

“So I was actually out of the race because I suffered a seizure this weekend. Luckily, my test results with CT scan and my MRI on Monday showed that there was nothing there as far as my brain tumour. Trying to find out some answers of what exactly is going on.”

Prior to his seizure, Tifft was thirty-first in points with a top-ten finish at Daytona International Speedway in July (ninth).

Before replacing Tifft, Nemechek had no prior Cup experience. Currently in his first full Xfinity season with GMS Racing, he was eliminated from the playoffs after the opening round. Now out of title contention, he is ninth in points with sixteen top tens, four top fives, and a best run of second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. He has enjoyed race wins in both the Xfinity and Truck Series, with six in the latter between 2015 and 2018.

“This isn’t the way any driver wants to make their Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut,” Nemechek said. “I am hoping that Matt feels better and can get back in his car as soon as possible. That is what is important. Hopefully I can learn a lot and make Matt, the Front Row Motorsports team and its partners proud.”

Nemechek’s Cup début will be the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. He will also run the Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway and the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2019, he recorded ninth-place finishes in the spring’s Texas and ISM Xfinity events. His lone Xfinity start at Homestead ended with a finish in third in 2018.

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