• NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Riley Herbst is heading home. The Alsco Uniforms 302 NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a hometown race for the 23-year-old racer as Herbst is a Las Vegas native, having grown up in the Entertainment Capital of the World. The Herbst name is well known in Vegas’ motorsports circles. Riley’s grandfather Jerry, uncles Tim and Ed, and father Troy, are all Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame inductees as championship-winning off-road racers. Now, the younger Herbst intends to keep the family’s motorsports legacy going in the NASCAR world behind the wheel of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
• The Alsco Uniforms 302 will mark Herbst’s seventh career Xfinity Series start at Las Vegas. He has two top-10 finishes at the track – a pair of ninth-place drives in September 2019 and February 2020. If Herbst scores another top-10 at Las Vegas in Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 302, he will record his 18th top-10 of 2022, which would be a career high. His 17 top-10s have already equaled his season high, first earned in 2020 when he was an Xfinity Series rookie.
• As Herbst seeks victory lane at Las Vegas, his Monster Energy team already knows the way. The No. 98 team swept both races in 2020 via Chase Briscoe. In February, he beat Austin Cindric by 2.874 seconds. Briscoe then defended that victory with another win just seven months later, beating Noah Gragson by 1.370 seconds.
• Prior to Saturday’s race, Herbst will stop at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Performance Institute in Las Vegas where he’ll join a training session led by former UFC champion Forrest Griffin. It’s the start of a full sports weekend for Herbst. After Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, UFC Fight Night will be held at the UFC Apex, where the night’s main fight card features Alexa Grasso and Viviane Araujo at 7 p.m. PDT. It’s just latest collaboration of hometown sports for Herbst. Before the September 2021 Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas, Herbst threw out the first pitch for a Thursday-night game of the Las Vegas Aviators, the Triple-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics. This past March, Herbst cranked the siren and hyped up the crowd at T-Mobile Arena prior to the puck dropping on the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ matchup against the Boston Bruins.
While you may not be racing for a championship, you still have four races left in the season. What is your mindset heading into these last few races?
“It’s disappointing to be knocked out of the playoffs, there’s no doubt about that. We did everything we could last weekend and were in a good spot to advance when we got into some trouble. With that said, you can’t dwell on the past. There are still four races left this season and four races to perform. This season has been one of growth and improvement, as both a team and driver. I think we can continue to show the field that this Monster Energy team is here to race and win.”
Your background is a little different than most of your competitors. While you come from a racing family, the Herbst name is well-known in off-road racing rather than on the NASCAR circuit. Talk about that transition from off-road racing to NASCAR, and if anything can be transferred between the two.
“I knew when I was young that I wanted to make racing a career. With my background, I loved off-road racing and that’s where I got started. But when I was 9, my dad sat me down and asked if this was what I really wanted to do. To be honest, off-road racing is an expensive hobby and hard to make a career out of, so I knew I had to seek out a different form of motorsports, and that’s when I turned my sights on NASCAR. The racing mindset exists across all motorsports, so there’s stuff that can cross over, but ultimately, they are so different.”
We’re heading to your hometown of Las Vegas, where the UFC headquarters is located. You’ll visit its facilities on Friday to meet some of the fighters and go through a workout. How excited are you?
“First off, I’m excited to be heading home, in general. To add the element of getting a training session with UFC legend Forrest Griffin is an added bonus. It’ll be cool to see how the fighters prepare for their matches versus how I train for a race. I’ve been working on my fitness training this year, so we’ll see if I can keep up with these superstar athletes. In addition, I’m just always excited to collaborate with different sports in Vegas. I’m an avid sports fan, so these experiences are genuinely just cool for me.”