Race Weekend Central

Hollywood Couldn’t Write a Better 1st Win for Riley Herbst

LAS VEGAS — One hundred and thirty-nine.

That’s how many tries it took for Riley Herbst to finally score his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win. 154 starts if you include all his starts across NASCAR’s three national touring series.

Herbst finally broke through on Saturday afternoon (Oct. 14), winning the Alsco Uniforms 302. But he didn’t just win the race. Herbst dominated it, leading 96 of the final 97 laps and beating second-place John Hunter Nemechek by 14.846 seconds. Now in his fourth full Xfinity season, Herbst had never led more than 57 laps in a year, let alone a race.

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But the icing on the cake is where the win happened at: Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Herbst is a native of Las Vegas, and his family has a large presence in the area. His family founded and runs Terrible’s, formerly known as Terrible Herbst, a convenience store with 180 locations and counting. Most are in Southern Nevada.

So Herbst got to score his first win in dominant fashion and in front of loved ones, in front of those who helped get his racing career going.

“I can’t thank my grandfather and mom and dad enough,” Herbst told NBC Sports. “I’m so emotional, but everybody here at Las Vegas, I love you guys. This is my home. I was born and raised here, so let’s go party and we’re gonna celebrate tonight.”

For many, it seemed like that win for Herbst would never come. After all, he took over a car that Chase Briscoe had won nine times in throughout 2020 and hadn’t won in his nearly three full seasons since. On top of that, Herbst missed out on the playoffs this year for the first time in his career.

“This year was such a failure that we didn’t make the playoffs,” Herbst said. “It’s so embarrassing to be in a car like this that doesn’t make the playoffs and walk in the garage each week with your head down, but [crew chief] Davin Restivo and all these guys on the [No.] 98 team told me to keep my head up and we’re gonna go win a race, and that’s what we did. I can’t fathom it.”

Restivo took over as Herbst’s crew chief just 14 races into this season. His previous crew chief Richard Boswell moved up to Cup to get reunite with Briscoe. Herbst said in his post-race press conference that he thought it was over after he and Boswell split but then Restivo breathed new life into the team.

Despite all the doubters, Herbst believes two people never gave up on him: Mitch Covington and Dave Gowan of Monster Energy. No matter what team or series, Monster has consistently been on Herbst’s cars since 2019.

“I can’t thank Monster Energy enough, Mitch Covington, Dave Gowan. Everybody said I couldn’t do it, and those two people stuck behind my whole career,” Herbst said. “You don’t even know what this means and what this takes off my chest.”

In his media center press conference, Herbst came out firing on those that didn’t believe he could win.

“We whooped them by about 10 seconds, so yeah, everybody that said I can’t do it, couldn’t do it, won’t win, not good enough, I just flat out beat them,” Herbst said. “So I’m pretty happy with myself, happy with Stewart-Haas Racing for sticking behind me.”

The win was the 100th for SHR across all NASCAR series. Herbst admitted no one would’ve predicted him as the driver to score that feat for the team.

“Stewart-Haas Racing 100th win, Riley Herbst, you never thought that would happen, huh?” Herbst said. “All you guys are laughing, huh. … That will be in the history books.”

The win came just two days after SHR announced Herbst would return to the No. 98 in Xfinity next year. Herbst had previously said that, despite racing in four NASCAR Cup Series races this year, he didn’t want to move up to Cup until he won in Xfinity.

Even with the breakthrough win, Herbst doesn’t feel he’s ready for racing on Sundays.

“I’ve signed my contract for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Xfinity Series next year, and even after today, I’m not where I want to be. I don’t think I can strap up with the best of them on Sunday and try to go win races.

“I can go to the garage and go run mid-20s and -30s in a Cup car, but I don’t know, that’s not really what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to be the best I can be, hone my craft, and when I feel like I’m to the caliber of Cup drivers and when people around me feel I’m to the caliber of the best guys on Sunday, I feel like we’ll make that jump.

About the author

Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.

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Al Unser Jr once said when he was coming up through the ranks with Michael Andretti and there were constant comments about how ‘easy they had it’ because they had ‘the best of everything,’ but as Al Jr noted, it means you have to win because its already assumed you have an unfair advantage. I think that applies to Herbst who has funding, and has been good, and appears to be making the transition to great. Congratulations.
Very good article.

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