• Riley Herbst is hungry for a win. The driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in the NASCAR Xfinity Series is heading into Saturday’s Indianapolis 150 at the Brickyard with his eyes on the prize. Last Saturday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Herbst got a taste of leading the field when the No. 98 team used strategy to put him in first place with 32 laps to go. The Las Vegas native held off Josh Berry for four laps – his first laps led at Pocono – before a tight handling condition forced him to give up the position. Herbst intends to build on that run with another front-running performance on Indy’s 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.
• The Indianapolis 150 will mark Herbst’s 96th career Xfinity Series start and his third on the road course at Indianapolis. In total, he has 14 top-fives and 46 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. The 2022 season is shaping up to be Herbst’s best in the series. He has already matched his career-best total of top-fives (five) and is only five top-10s away from matching his career-best total in that category (17). His best finish so far this season is third, earned twice – May 7 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and June 25 at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway.
• While Herbst is still on the hunt for his first Xfinity Series victory, he’s driving for the team that won the inaugural race on the road course at Indianapolis. With Chase Briscoe behind the wheel of the No. 98 in 2020, SHR scored the win in dramatic fashion. Briscoe powered past second-place Austin Cindric and leader AJ Allmendinger on the penultimate lap to score the victory 1.717 seconds over runner-up Justin Haley.
• Herbst shined in his most recent outing at Indianapolis. Driving the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang in last year’s Indianapolis 150, Herbst led his first laps at Indy en route to an eighth-place finish. It was part of a strong summer run that helped him erase a 54-point deficit to earn spot in the 2021 NASCAR Playoffs.
• Only seven races remain before this year’s playoffs begin Sept. 24 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Thanks to his strong runs this year, Herbst is in a much better position to make the 12-driver field than he was a year ago. He is currently ninth with 518 points, 114 ahead of Sheldon Creed, the first driver below the cutoff line. While a win would clinch a playoff spot for Herbst, he can continue to point his way into the playoffs by continuing his string of strong finishes through the regular-season finale Sept. 16 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
You made your first career NASCAR Xfinity Series start on the road course at Indianapolis in 2020. How much have you learned about road-course racing since?
“I’ve learned a lot since 2020. The inaugural race at Indianapolis wasn’t my best start, but I’ve grown as a driver since then. We finished seventh at Road America earlier this year, so I think we can grow from that to perform well this weekend in Indy. The No. 98 team has won there before, too. We just have to stay out of trouble and make it to the end for a chance to bring home the trophy.”
What can you take away from your last road-course race July 2 at Road America that might help you this weekend?
“Road America and the Indianapolis road course are two completely different tracks, but I’m always learning each time we go to a road course. Some stuff can transfer over but, ultimately, you have to handle each track differently. I was pretty good last year at both tracks, so hopefully we’ll see that again this weekend.”
Last week at Pocono, you were up front and leading laps, all while battling a tight-handling racecar. Still, this season is shaping up to be your career-best in the Xfinity Series. Talk about your development this season and what you want to achieve next.
“We have to be perfect in every area – fast pit stops, no mistakes, and speed in the car. I know that this No. 98 Monster Energy team can get it done and they deserve to be in victory lane. Some things this season have been out of our hands, but we have to be the best that we can be. We’re continuing to get better each week, and I think if we keep knocking on the door, it’ll open.”