Monster Energy Racing: Riley Herbst Talladega NXS Advance

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•  After racing on NASCAR’s smallest track April 11 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Riley Herbst and his fellow NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers head to NASCAR’s biggest track – Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The high-banked, 2.66-mile oval at Talladega dwarfs the flat .526-mile oval that is Martinsville. The pendulum swing from one end of the track spectrum to the other is apt for Herbst. The driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing was happy to see an already small Martinsville Speedway grow even smaller in his rearview mirror after a 29th-place finish. Talladega is big in size and opportunity. In the 30 Xfinity Series races held at Talladega since the inaugural race on July 25, 1992, 24 different drivers have emerged victorious. Herbst eyes the chance to be the 25th different winner. 

•  Racing at Talladega has always been unpredictable, but Herbst has been able to hold his own at the eastern Alabama track throughout his burgeoning career. The 22-year-old has four top-10 finishes in his five Talladega starts outside of the Xfinity Series. Four of those were in the ARCA Menards Series, with Herbst earning a best finish of second in 2019. And in his lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Talladega in 2019, Herbst finished third. 

•  Herbst comes into Talladega with 50 career Xfinity Series starts. His resume includes five top-fives and 23 top-10s. His best finish is second, earned twice – Feb. 29, 2020 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and July 9, 2020 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. Herbst has accomplished all of this as a 22-year-old, and he is poised for that breakthrough win. One number, in particular, backs this up:  the average age of the past three Xfinity Series winners at Talladega is 22. 
Riley Herbst, Driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang
 Teammates play a vital role in drafting at superspeedways, but at Stewart-Haas Racing, it’s just you. Without an official teammate, what is the strategy going into Talladega?“It’s definitely strange going from a ton of teammates last year to none in the Xfinity Series this year, but we have some good Ford teammates who can help us at these tracks. Drafting plays a major role in these races, as we saw at Daytona, and who you have behind you could make or break your day. Ultimately, I think it all comes down to doing your homework, watching your film, taking notes before the race about how they build runs, and trusting your spotter. Tim Fedewa is my spotter this year and he spots for Kevin Harvick, so he’s done this for some time and he’s really good at it. I need to trust him whenever he says to do something and tells me to block lanes when controlling the race.”

 You were running up front at Daytona and leading laps before being taken out in an accident. What are your expectations for this weekend at Talladega?“We were running well there in the first stage at Daytona before the wreck, so hopefully we can figure out how to get up front at Talladega and stay there. These superspeedways are unpredictable, so no one can really plan for what’s going to happen. You just have to be smart and stay out of trouble.” 

This is only your eighth race with this No. 98 Monster Energy team. What have you learned so far this season as the summer stretch approaches and you look to make the playoffs?“The first part of the season hasn’t gone like we’ve hoped it would, but we’ve definitely learned a lot that we can carry with us throughout the rest of the season. It’s always a learning curve when you go to a new team. I’m starting to get into my groove and the guys are starting to learn what I need out of our Monster Energy Ford Mustang. If we can stay out of trouble, we can run up front.”

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