• Riley Herbst kicks off his playoff drive this Saturday in the Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang locked himself into the postseason two weekends ago at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, marking his third straight playoff appearance since his rookie year in 2020. Herbst is seeded 11th in the 12-driver playoff field, three points below the top-eight cutoff to advance to the Round of 8, which begins Oct. 15 at his home track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. To get there, Herbst must successfully navigate Texas and then the next two playoff races Oct. 1 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Oct. 8 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. Winning is the surefire way to advance to the next round of the playoffs, but consistency, the ability to avoid trouble, and accumulating valuable stage points are all important aspects of advancing throughout the playoffs and to the ultimate goal of being a part of the Championship 4 Nov. 5 at Phoenix Raceway.
• Herbst proved solid during the 26-race regular season. The 23-year-old racer from Las Vegas began the year with a fourth-place finish at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and capped the regular season with a fifth-place run at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway last Friday night. Herbst earned six top-fives and 16 top-10s in the regular season to finish ninth in the standings. With seven races still remaining, his six top-fives have already exceeded his previous season-best of five top-fives, earned last year. He is also just one top-10 away from equaling his single-season career best of 17 top-10s, secured in 2020.
• The Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 will be Herbst’s sixth career Xfinity Series start at Texas. Since joining Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2021, Herbst has not finished outside the top-12 at the 1.5-mile oval, including a career-best run of eighth earned in May.
• SHR has one Xfinity Series win at Texas. Cole Custer delivered the victory in November 2018, beating Tyler Reddick by .162 of a second.
• As part of the annual “Honor a Cancer Hero” program championed by the Martin Truex Jr. Foundationand the NASCAR Foundation, the name of Laura Walter will ride along with Herbst above the driver’s side door of his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang for the second year in a row this weekend at Texas. In recognition of Childhood and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, the signature panels of Herbst’s racing machine and that of dozens of other drivers in NASCAR’s top-three national touring series were auctioned to the highest bidder. Mark Walter Jr., nominated his mother Laura, who battled breast cancer, to appear on Herbst’s car once again this year. Proceeds from this program have raised more than $106,000 in support of The Martin Truex Jr. Foundation Emergency Children’s Department in Huntersville, North Carolina, as well as integrative therapies for women and children undergoing cancer treatments and child life services across the racing community.
Texas marks the start of the seven-race Xfinity Series Playoffs. Does your mindset change now that you’re in the playoffs, or do you go about these next seven races the same way you did the previous 26 races?
“Nothing changes. We obviously have to be smart in the playoffs. It’s about surviving each race and getting the best results. I think we’re smart about coming to races and being prepared to race for wins, but also being cautious and staying out of trouble. We’re always going to try to execute to the best of our abilities and try to get the best results. That won’t change in the playoffs.”
You’ve earned a career-best six top-fives along with 16 top-10s so far this season. What’s been the key to your growth this season?
“Communication has been key this year. Last year we were just getting to know each other and it was a weird year with no practice or qualifying. Those sessions are essential to learning a brand-new team. Really, communication with my crew chief, Richard Boswell, and my spotter, Tim Fedewa, has been key. You have to build a trust in that trio and we’ve done that this year. The results are showing and people are taking notice.”
How do you approach Texas and what have you learned since your first start at the track in 2020?
“Texas is a beast on its own. It’s a super-fast, 1.5-mile track in the Texas heat, so you know it’s going to be a challenge. With that said, it should be a lot of fun and I’m excited to go back for the second time this year. I performed well there in May, so hoping to continue that trend. The key is having a fast Monster Energy Ford Mustang, which we always bring, and staying out of trouble. It’s your typical intermediate track, but it’s crazy how fast it is. We just have to keep our focus on earning stage points and getting a good finish.”