|• Momentum is on Riley Herbst’s side as he heads into the season-ending NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at Phoenix Raceway. In the series’ prior race last Saturday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, the driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing charged from 26th to 10th with less than 60 laps to go. It was his 12th top-10 finish of the season and his third top-12 in a row. It was a strong display of resilience from the 22-year-old racer out of Las Vegas. A five-car incident on lap 194 of the scheduled 250-lap race collected Herbst and dropped him from eighth to 26th. Undaunted, Herbst rallied back, cracking top-10 by lap 227 and surviving a pair of eventful overtime restarts for a hard-earned 10th-place result.|
• When the Xfinity Series rolled into Phoenix back in March for its fifth race of 2021, Herbst emerged with a solid fourth-place finish thanks to some savvy driving in the closing laps. He started 30th after enduring three DNFs (Did Not Finish) in the season’s first four events, but Herbst methodically worked his way through the field and entered the top-20 by lap 12. He continued his forward progress as the race wore on and was sitting seventh on the final restart with three laps to go. He then threaded his way through the cars ahead of him in the closing laps to cross the finish line in fourth. It was his first of four top-fives this season, with the others being a fourth-place drive April 24 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, a fifth-place run Sept. 11 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, and a third-place effort Sept. 17 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
• Saturday’s race will be Herbst’s fifth career Xfinity Series start at Phoenix. In addition to the fourth-place result earned in March, he finished among the top-11 in two of his other three starts. Complementing his Xfinity Series outings at Phoenix is a 10th-place run in his lone NASCAR K&N Pro Series West start at the track in November 2019, and a 15th-place drive in his lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start in November 2018.
• While Herbst won’t be racing for the Xfinity Series championship at Phoenix, there’s still a points battle to be fought. Herbst protected his 11th-place position in the drivers’ standings with his 10th-place run last Saturday at Martinsville. At Phoenix, he’ll race to catch 10th-place Jeb Burton, who sits 27 points ahead of him. Herbst finished 12th in points during his rookie season in 2020.
• Herbst should feel right at home at the desert mile in Arizona. Being a third-generation racer from Las Vegas, he’s taking his family name from the deserts of the southwest to the asphalt tracks of NASCAR. Herbst began racing go-karts up and down the West Coast at age 5. He soon followed in his family’s footsteps in 2006 when he transitioned to off-road racing, where his grandfather Jerry, his dad Troy, and his uncles Tim and Ed, all became Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame inductees after their numerous championship-winning campaigns. But by age 10, Herbst sought a return to pavement, which began with Legends cars before transitioning to Speed Trucks, Super Late Models, the K&N Series, Trucks, and now, the Xfinity Series. After Saturday’s Xfinity Series race he’ll take some time to return to his family’s off-road roots Nov. 15-20 when he participates in the Baja 1000.
|Riley Herbst, Driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang|
| It’s the final race of the season. What are your thoughts on the year as you head into the finale?“Man, this season has been full of ups and downs. While we struggled in the beginning, we really started to hit our stride over the summer. All of the hard work seemed to be paying off. We didn’t have the playoff run we would’ve liked, but we learned a lot that we can carry over into the 2022 season. I’m excited to continue to get stronger with this team. Ready to finish it out strong in Phoenix.” |
You scored a fourth-place finish thanks to a strong restart in the final laps the last time you raced at Phoenix. What’s the plan heading into Saturday’s race?“Last time we were in Phoenix, we had an impressive finish and really started to show what this team could do if presented with an opportunity. We avoided the chaos at the end and brought home a top-five. Heading into this weekend, the ultimate goal is to win, but most of all, we want to finish out the season with another strong finish. This team has worked hard all season long. I know we can get it done.”
After this race, you get a three-month break until the start of your 2022 campaign. How will you be spending the offseason?“The work definitely doesn’t stop in the offseason. After Phoenix, all eyes are on Daytona in February. There’s still work to be done. We want to come out of the gate strong when we unload the car for the 2022 season. I’ll get a chance to go home to Vegas and see my family, so I’m excited. Also, I’m running the Baja 1000 in a couple of weeks, so there’s a lot of stuff going on after the checkered flag this weekend.”