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Matt Tifft eager to get back into a car to test after brain surgery

NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 - Qualifying

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 19: Matt Tifft speaks in a press conference during qualifying for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 19, 2016 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Blaine Ohigashi/Getty Images)

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Matt Tifft says he’ll test a Late Model car Sunday as part of his recovery from brain surgery.

Tifft had surgery July 1 to remove a low-grade glioma, a slow-growing brain tumor. Tifft said that doctors told him the tumor was not cancerous but could be in the future. Tifft said doctors removed most of the tumor but not all of it.

Tifft also said doctors have cleared him to return to the car.

“The most curious thing to me is just seeing what my level of stamina is compared to the past because it’s been so long since I’ve been in a car,’’ Tifft said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “What I want to see is short run speed and how well I’m able to adapt to tire falloff, just the normal stuff that you want to see and how I can adapt and feel the car again just with handling characteristics and stuff like that. Make sure that I’m totally good to go with all that.

“I’m really looking forward to it. The big thing is just getting in the heat. Obviously it’s been so hot lately, it’s a great test for that and being fatigued in the car and still seeing what that’s like. I’ve pushed myself in the gym probably harder than I ever did before this happened and just for that time when I do get in the car that I can hopefully be at that level or even better than where I was before.”

Tifft said he’s spent time with a simulation program to get his brain used to the demands of racing again.

“Your body has been through so much when you literally take out part of your brain, it’s just your body’s chemistry is all changed,’’ he said. “In the beginning, I was driven to get back home, but then as soon as I got back home, you get that realization that this is not going to be tomorrow that I’m going to be okay, this is going to take some time and in the beginning that took a while to really understand that. There were definitely some times where you’re bummed out and you just want things to go back to normal. Then you just have to keep telling yourself that you have to do everything necessary to get back to that point.”

The 20-year-old had competed in six Xfinity races this season, including three with Joe Gibbs Racing, and three Camping World Truck Series races before his tumor was discovered. No timetable has been set for his return.

Tifft said he’ll have MRI scans every eight weeks to ensure there are no issues. If things continue to progress well, the MRIs will be spaced further apart.

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