• Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway hosts its second NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the road course. The track held its first race on the 14-turn, 3.61-mile circuit last August after the series was unable to race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International due to COVID-19 restrictions. This will be Riley Herbst’s second Xfinity Series start on the Daytona road course. His finished seventh in last year’s race.
• Herbst will sport the familiar colors of Monster Energy this weekend. In last week’s season-opening race on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval, he started fourth based on 2020 owner points after qualifying was rained out. He led 12 laps in the first stage and was a contender for the stage win, finishing only .004 of a second behind Brandon Jones. Even after falling back in the field, Herbst rallied his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang into the top-10 in the last 30 laps. Ultimately, a multicar accident with less than 20 laps to go collected Herbst and relegated him to an undeserved 26th-place finish.
• Herbst, who will turn 22 on Feb. 24, has 44 Xfinity Series starts on a resume that includes four top-fives and 21 top-10s. He has his sights set on his first career Xfinity Series victory with youth and recent history on his side. Consider:
▬ In his past two road-course starts at Daytona and the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval, Herbst has not finished outside the top-12.
▬ Eight of the last 12 road-course winners were under the age of 29.
▬ Chase Briscoe scored his Xfinity Series win with the No. 98 Ford Mustang on the Charlotte Roval in 2018 at the age of 23.
▬ Ford has won seven of the last 12 road-course races. Two of the wins came from the No. 98 team.
▬ Herbst’s best road-course result (seventh) came in his first start on the Daytona road course last August.
▬ In its 10 road-course starts, the No. 98 Ford Mustang has earned two wins, three top-fives and eight top-10s.
• While Herbst only has a limited number of road-course starts, The Las Vegas-native has been a quick learner. In his first Xfinity Series start on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last July, an accident relegated Herbst to a 33rd-place result. A month later, he finished seventh on the Daytona road course. In only four series starts on road courses, he has one top-10 and two top-15s.
• Herbst has two additional road-course starts in K&N Pro Series East and West competition. His finished fifth in 2016 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and 12th in 2019 at Watkins Glen.
You don’t have many starts on road courses, but you were able to pull off a top-10 finish in the inaugural Xfinity Series race on the Daytona road course last August. What are your thoughts on this type of track?
“I like the Daytona road course. We had some success there last year, and we were pretty fast. It’s definitely a different aspect of racing. I feel like it’s a lot of fun. I didn’t really think I was going to like it, but I do enjoy it quite a bit. It’s way different.”
How have you prepared for races like this where there’s no practice or qualifying?
“It’s tough with the COVID deal, but the first part about working with a new team is getting to know your crew members. I’ve been trying to get to know Richard (Boswell, crew chief), so we’ve been going to lunch. I’ve been trying my best to go to the shop while staying socially distanced and wearing a mask so that I can get to know everybody. Once you lay the groundwork there in getting to know them, you head to the Ford simulator. I’m trying to learn Richard and he’s trying to learn me so that we can hit the ground running. With the limited amount of practice this year, all that stuff is really huge.”
Stewart-Haas Racing has an established Xfinity Series program and you’ve mentioned that you have to get used to it. Does the team have to develop the car to be comfortable for you, or do you have to adapt to the comfort of the cars since the team has been so successful?
“Some people drive tighter racecars and some people drive looser racecars. Chase (Briscoe), coming from a dirt background, likes his car to turn really well, driving it with a throttle pedal, and managing himself. I don’t know if I’ve established my driving style yet, so that’s what we’ve been talking about the last few months. We try to start with Chase’s setups and adjust from there. It’s not like it’s a slow racecar by any means. I’m just excited to hop in these Monster Energy Ford Mustangs and see what they drive like.”