While is getting an opportunity to join Kyle Busch Motorsports for six Truck Series races this year, sharing the No. 51 ride with and , the eighteen year old ‘Shark Tank’ fan is also bringing his own unique business sense to the NASCAR dance.
“We really don’t have a racing family, we have more of a business family,” Tifft said. “My mom went to the Peace Corps in Africa when she was in her early twenties and she only made it nine months because she got malaria three times. She came back and then she wanted to help find a cure. So, she formed her own company and now they do clinical research for the Ebola outbreak. They do a lot of work to find medical vaccines.”
“What is unique is that my parents started their business in what became my bedroom in the house,” Tifft continued. “I watched them grow their business from those two to having government contracts to look for the Ebola vaccine.”
“I’ve seen from Shark Tank people that didn’t take a salary for three or four years just trying to make it starting their own company. I’ve always had that business sense, which is unusual because most of the drivers have an engineering background like Ryan Newman.”
“I like that business stuff and I think I got that business mind from my mom,” Tifft said. “I find different brands and businesses interesting. I’m really into sponsorship negotiations and talks and the business aspect of the sport.”
“There are so many different business models and different departments. Racing is anything from automotive parts to fast food to Game Stop or whatever. So, there are all these different platforms and business strategies that want to be in NASCAR. That’s kind of cool for somebody like me because I understand what their business wants to do. And then when you find that one guy in the company that wants to go racing, that is really cool to connect with them.”
While Tifft is readying to take care of business behind the wheel of the KBM No. 51 Toyota truck, with his first race at Gateway, he is also trying to take care of business including potential sponsorship for his six race run.
“We talked a little bit to a few teams last year,” Tifft said. “We wanted to do a part-time Truck schedule and were trying to find what made sense. I got in contact with KBM and we met and went to the race shop. I made my first Truck start in Martinsville and I finished top-ten. So, we got the green light to go ahead and negotiate for the 2015 season.”
“We’re working on sponsorship right now. Federated Auto Parts has been supportive last year so we are trying to work some stuff out with them. Sponsorship is what we are always trying to do and hopefully, with the name of Kyle Busch Motorsports, we can attract some more interest and funding.”
“The outlook for this year is to do six to eight Truck races. We’re in negotiations right now to do about eight ARCA races, nothing certain yet, but we are hoping to do that with Ken Schrader racing again. I’ll be doing some Modified and asphalt super late models too.”
While Tifft is busy with racing, he is also honing his Shark Tank-like business acumen in school.
“I’m going to UNC Charlotte full-time too in their business school. It’s interesting because I’m a full-time student but I only go to class Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. That way I have Thursday through Sunday for racing purposes.”
“Honestly I’ve been used to it since seventh grade. I went to public school so I’ve been racing and going to school. I think in high school, I missed 150 days over the course of four years. My school was really helpful in dealing with that and I still got really good grades.”
“For me, I’m more focused when I have school and racing going on at the same time because I know I have to get it done. On the plane rides back from the race track, I know that I have to get my homework done.”
While Tifft is bringing his Shark Tank mentality to the track, he is also bringing his passion for the sport along with him as well. And he is learning at the feet of some of the best, including his racing idol and his racing mentor .
“Schrader’s been really helpful. He helped with the connections and getting the negotiations started with KBM. He has been a huge part of that. There are so many people that have helped me along the way and the cool thing is that I still have relationships with all those people.”
“There are three people that got me into racing, my dad, Jeff Gordon and the guy my dad raced for. Growing up, every Sunday I would be sitting on the couch watching Jeff Gordon try to win.”
“So, to see him leave the sport after this season is definitely strange. But at the same time, it’s probably good for young drivers like me because there is that changing of the guard.”
With the confidence of youth that even Shark Tank’s ‘Mr. Wonderful’ would applaud, Tifft cannot wait to get into the seat, buckle up and go racing.
“The biggest thing that I have going is obviously being with the most dominant team in the Truck Series. They proved that last year with all their wins. So, just to be a part of that team and trying to prove myself in the Trucks Series with top-notch equipment will be exciting.”
“I can definitely see myself succeeding and it’s the best feeling in the world.”
“My outlook for the season is really optimistic and I’m absolutely confident that this part-time schedule will allow me to showcase my abilities as I work towards securing a full-time opportunity in 2016.”
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