Monster Energy Racing: Riley Herbst Daytona NXS Advance

Stewart-Haas Racing Photo

•  Back to the beginning. Riley Herbst and the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) return to where their strong 2022 season began for Friday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Wawa 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. After a solid recovery in last Saturday’s race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, where Herbst rallied for his 15th top-10 finish of the season, the Las Vegas native hopes to score his first career Xfinity Series victory this weekend on the iconic 2.5-mile superspeedway oval, where he kicked off the season with a fourth-place finish. Since then, he’s had a career year in the series, highlighted by a pair of third-place finishes – May 7 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, and June 25 at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway, where he also earned his second career pole.

•  Herbst ran in the top-10 for a majority of the Feb. 19 season opener at Daytona and collected valuable bonus points with his finishes of third and 10th in the opening two stages, respectively. He successfully avoided several accidents en route to his fourth-place finish, which equaled his career-best superspeedway finish first earned at Daytona in August 2020. Herbst and the No. 98 Monster Energy team have had three other strong superspeedway-style outings in 2022. On March 19 at the repaved and newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway, where racing is now more akin to that of a superspeedway than an intermediate track, the No. 98 team persevered despite overheating problems that put Herbst a lap down early in the race and earned another fourth-place finish. On April 23 at Daytona’s sister track, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Herbst brought home a solid seventh-place finish. Herbst claimed another top-10 at Atlanta with a ninth-place result on July 9.

•  The Wawa 250 will mark Herbst’s 99th career Xfinity Series start and his seventh on the Daytona oval. In total, Herbst has two top-fives and three top-10s in his six prior starts at Daytona, leading 25 laps along the way.

•  Herbst’s “Monster” season, his third fulltime Xfinity Series campaign, has seen the 23-year-old racer equal or better his best finishes at 10 tracks on the schedule. He has already matched his career-best tally of five top-five finishes, first set in 2021. He is also only two top-10s shy of matching his career best of 17 top-10s, which he first earned in 2020. In total, Herbst has 14 top-fives and 49 top-10s dating back to his first career Xfinity Series start on June 17, 2018, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, where he finished an impressive sixth as a 19-year-old.

•  Herbst has five starts on the Daytona oval outside of the Xfinity Series – three in the ARCA Menards Series and two in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – with a best finish of seventh in the ARCA Menards Series season opener in February 2020.

•  With four races remaining before the playoffs begin Sept. 24 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Herbst is solidly among the 12-driver playoff field. With his seventh-place finish at Watkins Glen, Herbst passed Sam Mayer for eighth in the driver standings with 613 points, a solid 129 points above the cutoff line. He is the top driver in the standings among those without a win this season. A win at Daytona would lock Herbst into the playoffs, but he can also secure his position by pointing his way into the postseason with continued top-10 consistency through the regular-season finale Sept. 16 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

You’ve been solid on superspeedways this year, earning top-10 finishes in all of them. Does that boost your confidence as you head to Daytona?

“It does, but we also understand the reality of superspeedway races. Anything can happen. Anyone can win. I think we’ve done a good job of pulling together some strong races. Daytona and Talladega are tracks where we’ve run up front and led laps, so we know we can be a contender for the win this weekend. I think we just have to put it all together.”

Watkins Glen was a roller coaster of a race for the No. 98 Monster Energy team. But you were able to recover from a spin to collect your 15th top-10 finish of the season. Talk about the solid runs and speed you’ve had as a team this season.

“Watkins Glen was frustrating, but ultimately we proved that we were a team to compete with, just like at Indianapolis. We’re not lacking in speed, and I think we’re all confident in each other. This season has been a complete turnaround from last year and I’m proud of how much we’ve grown. People are taking notice. Our win is coming.”

What’s the strategy for Daytona?

“Our goal is to win and lock ourselves into the playoffs. Daytona is unpredictable though. You can be running your best race and get caught up in somebody else’s mess. Our points cushion gives us the ability to go to Daytona and be more aggressive though. We have to put a strong race together with a good qualifying run, speed in the racecar, and fast pit stops. We’ll see how the race unfolds, but hopefully we can run up front and park our No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang in victory lane Friday night.”


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