Misfortune found Riley Herbst and the No. 98 Monster Energy team in Saturday’s Sparks 300 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway when an accident ended their day just six laps from the eventual finish after their strong run. The 22-year-old driver rolled off 13th when the green flag waved on the race scheduled for 113 laps. While he initially struggled with a loose Ford Mustang, Herbst was able to use the draft and work his way up to third by the end of Stage 1 to collect eight much-needed bonus points. During the break, Herbst got some help from his friends on the No. 98 Monster Energy pit crew after their fast two-tire pit stop gained him two spots and made him the first car off pit road. He restarted Stage 2 as the leader and stayed there for all but two of its 25 laps. These were Herbst’s first laps led at Talladega in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He lost the draft with his Ford teammate Austin Cindric in the No. 22 Ford Mustang, while coming to the green-and-white checkered flag and fell back to fourth at stage’s end. He still earned another seven bonus points to help with his bid to reach the Round of 8 of the playoffs. During the break, the No. 98 Monster Energy pit crew gained Herbst another three spots on pit road and put him back in the lead for the restart on lap 55. He was shuffled back in the opening laps of the stage and fell to 13th. Herbst quickly worked his way back up to third before coming down pit road on lap 70 for a quick, fuel-only stop. As pit stops cycled, Herbst inherited the lead after the lap-74 caution. The Las Vegas native got shuffled back shortly after the restart but was running seventh by lap 88. A spin at the front of the pack stacked the field, and the car behind Herbst ran into the back end of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang. Under the caution, crew chief Richard Boswell brought his driver down pit road to change all four tires and fix the right-rear damage. Herbst restarted 23rd but wasted no time in his drive up through the field. He was 12th by lap 100. As he continued his climb to the front, the Las Vegas native was caught up in an unavoidable, multicar accident on lap 101. He was credited with a 27th-place finish in a race that never went back to green due to darkness.
Riley Herbst, driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
“We were doing everything to the plan and then, I think with 10 or 20 laps to go, the incident came and somebody from behind me didn’t use their brake pedal and knocked the back of our racecar off. We had to come down pit road and fix that, and then that obviously put us in the hornet’s nest in the top of three-wide. At that point, I knew we were going to be wrecked. It’s just a shame that they hit us from the back and we had to come back down pit road and fix it or else we could have restarted and stayed up front where we were all day. We led a lot of laps and got a lot of stage points. It just didn’t finish well. I think we’ve got to go win (next week at the Charlotte Motor Speedway) Roval, now.”
● Herbst led three times for 26 laps, his first laps led at Talladega.
● Herbst finished third in Stage 1 to earn eight bonus points and fourth in Stage 2 to earn seven more bonus points.
● Brandon Brown won the Sparks 300 at Talladega under caution to score his first career Xfinity Series victory in 114 starts.
● There were five caution periods for a total of 21 laps.
● Twenty-two of the 40 drivers in the Sparks 300 at Talladega finished on the lead lap.
● Cindric remains the championship leader after Talladega with an 22-point advantage over second-place Allgaier.
The next event on the Xfinity Series schedule is the Drive For the Cure 250 Presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 9 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.