• Riley Herbst and the No. 98 Monster Energy team are bringing the heat to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race. Fresh off a seventh-place finish last Saturday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Herbst has his eye on the trophy this weekend. In the series’ last race on an oval track June 25 at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway, Herbst earned his second career pole and his second top-three finish of the season.
• The Alsco Uniforms 250 will mark Herbst’s fifth career Xfinity Series start at Atlanta, but just his second on the new layout. The 1.54-mile oval was reconfigured over the winter. The banking was increased from 24 degrees to 28 degrees and the track was narrowed from 55-feet wide to 40-feet wide, and it was all covered in fresh asphalt. The goal of the reconstruction was to recreate the kind of pack-style racing seen at the behemoth, 2.5-mile Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the even bigger 2.66-mile Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Xfinity Series drivers competed on the new layout for the first time back in March, and it suited Herbst well as he finished fourth – his best result in four Atlanta starts.
• The Alsco Uniforms 250 will mark Herbst’s 93rd career Xfinity Series start. In total, he has 14 top-fives and 45 top-10s dating back to his first career start on June 17, 2018, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, where he finished an impressive sixth as a 19-year-old. In four previous starts at Atlanta, Herbst has scored two top-10s and never finished outside the top-20. Herbst has completed all 662 of the laps available.
• With only 10 races remaining before the Xfinity Series playoffs begin Sept. 24 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Herbst is sitting in solid position to make the 12-driver field. He is currently ninth with 545 points, 136 ahead of Anthony Alfredo, who is the first driver below the cutoff line. So far this season, Herbst has earned five top-fives and 11 top-10s. He’s on track to have a career year, as he has already matched his season-high total of top-fives, first earned last year, and he is only six top-10s away from matching his career high in that category as well, which he accomplished in 2020 (17).
At the last oval track the NASCAR Xfinity Series visited – June 25 at Nashville Superspeedway – you had your strongest overall weekend so far this season. You earned your second career pole and tied your season-best finish of third. Does that help your confidence heading into Atlanta?
“Nashville was a great weekend for everyone on this No. 98 Monster Energy team. We just had a solid day, which is what we need to make it to the playoffs. Every track is different, so you still have to do everything you can to prepare for the weekend. With that said, I think we’re knocking on the door of our first win and, eventually, it’s going to open. We’re focused on improving in every area and I think it’s showing.”
You seemed to take to the new Atlanta configuration when last raced there in March. Not only did you get back on the lead lap after going two laps down, but you earned a top-five finish. What is it about the reconfiguration that suits your driving style?
“Honestly, I think just the sheer speed of the track now. It drives like a superspeedway, which I’ve always been able to perform well at in my career. When we raced there earlier this year, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t have a strong qualifying effort and then had some issues with water temperatures. But, ultimately, I was able to race my way up to fourth. I think we’ve grown as a team since then, so I’m excited to head back.”
This is the first time in your career that you’ve raced with the exact same team for a second year. Has that helped your performance this year?
“It helps a lot. I don’t think I’ve had the same crew chief and team from year-to-year since I started in NASCAR, and it’s a struggle when you have to learn an entire new team each year. Richard (Boswell, crew chief), the team, and I were all still figuring each other out last year, but now we have a strong relationship and good communication. I think it shows with our strong performance this season.”