This Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be a sort of homecoming for Riley Herbst, the driver of the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. The surname Herbst is well established amongst Las Vegas motor racing fans, as Herbst’s grandfather Jerry, uncles Tim and Ed, and his father Troy are all legendary Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame inductees as championship-winning off-road racers.
Herbst enters the Las Vegas race tied for fourth in points with Ryan Sieg and Monster Energy teammate Ty Gibbs. A fourth at Daytona was backed up a week later with a ninth at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California. Now holding down an average race finish of 6.5, Herbst is very pleased with his early season momentum.
“We wanted to come out swinging,” he said. “The momentum is huge for us. It is definitely way better this year. We’ve had a couple of top 10s in a row now and hopefully we’ll get number three this weekend.
“We were real strong at Daytona. Daytona is always crazy, but it was good to run up front and lead some laps and just be strong in general. That race was really good to us. It’s an interesting place. I mean everybody has got to race it, so I’ve been trying to get used to it. I’m trying to love everything. I love just getting the opportunity to race everything, so I enjoy it.”
Fontana also wound up being friendly to Herbst last Saturday afternoon.
“I felt really good going into Auto Club and, candidly, I didn’t think that we performed to our expectations,” he said. “However, we’ll take a top 10. A ninth place finish isn’t too bad to get some decent points. Yeah, I thought we should have been a little bit better. We struggled with the car a little bit all day, but all in all, it was a good day for us.”
The NASCAR Xfinity Series is a stacked deck filled with fierce competitors all looking to end 2022 as a NASCAR champion. Among those battling Herbst are the sensational young Ty Gibbs, veteran driver A.J. Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Herbst’s Las Vegas neighbor Noah Gragson.
“Each year it just gets more and more difficult, which is awesome,” said Herbst. “The more people the better because that means you’re the best, you know what I’m saying?”
Herbst completed his second Xfinity season last year with five top five finishes, and 13 top 10 finishes. Ultimately 11th in the final 2021 Xfinity Series point standings, Herbst was pleased with his overall season performance, but wants nothing more than his very first Xfinity win. Could Las Vegas possible be the place for that to happen?
“Yeah, hopefully this weekend,” he said. “Any weekend would be good to win, but this one would especially be excellent to win with just being home. These races are very, very hard to win. A lot of things have to right, so I’d assume that would make it all that much more sweet when you do win. We’re working really hard to do that.”
Following this Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 300, the series eries will roll out of Las Vegas and over to Phoenix.
“I like Phoenix,” said Herbst. “I finished (well) the last time we were there, so it should be a good run for us at that good little short track out in the desert. Atlanta will be a brand-new race track. They repaved it and redesigned it, so it’s going to be new for everybody this year. It’s going to be really, really fast and it can be fun.
“I think consistency is our plan. We want to just keep putting these good results in the bag. We want to pick them up and knock them down every weekend. I think that will be huge for us. We just need to finish and be in the top 10 every weekend and we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the year. Man, I’m enjoying it”