BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Young Xfinity driver Matt Tifft is ready to start the road back to the track after brain surgery earlier this summer.

The 20-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing driver came to Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday to discuss his progress from a craniotomy after he was diagnosed with a slow-growing, low-grade brain tumor. Tifft and his family decided to schedule surgery as quickly as possible.

"This is something we couldn't mess with," Tifft said. "We couldn't wait around."

The prognosis was encouraging. Tifft, who has a scar on the right side of his head, said the growth was benign and subsequent tests showed he was not in danger of seizures, a byproduct of some brain tumors.

"That was a huge step in the recovery process," he said. "My brain was functioning at a healthy and safe level."

Tifft's strength was sapped after the surgery and simply excursions like walking around the mall became a major ordeal. "It makes you appreciate things a lot more," he said.

Now, Tifft's pointing toward returning to the driver's seat.

He's got a test session planned in Hickory, North Carolina, testing a late-model stock car like he drove previously. Tifft said he's eager to test is reaction time and his stamina, things that he's only slowly.

Tifft was one of the NASCAR Next drivers who got a 13-race commitment to run Xfinity cars for JGR. He had two top-10 finishes in six starts this year before the brain tumor was found during a medical treatment for disc condition in his back.

Tifft remembers watching the Xfinity race from Daytona soon after waking up in his hospital room, a race where David Ragan took over for Tifft.

"To see your name on the door plate there and you not in the car, that's bizarre," he said.

Tifft is unsure what happens after running laps Sunday and how soon it will take him to return to Xfinity racing. He has gotten stronger each day, his fitness increasing as his brain heals. Doctors have said there's a small chance the tumor could grow once more, but Tifft said it was a "fairly aggressive surgery and they got the most out possible."

He will undergo MRI monitoring every eight weeks of so for a while, then less frequently if there are no setbacks.

Tifft said there was never a time he thought about giving up his career, using that as motivation to work hard in recovery. How will he feel Sunday driving fast again? "I'll be smiling from ear to ear," he said.