Nothing in the Las Vegas desert was going to stop the hometown boy from winning.
Riley Herbst has had an up and down career over his tenure in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but everything finally came together today on Saturday (Oct. 14), as the 24-year-old dominated the latter stages of the Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to win his first Xfinity race in his 139th start.
“I love this town, I love this team, Davin Restivo believed in me, but I have to give a big shout-out to (former crew chief) Richard Boswell, because I wouldn’t be the person I am or the race car driver I am without him,” a joyful Herbst told NBC Sports.
“…Oh, my goodness, you don’t know what this means, what it takes off my chest, I can’t believe it. I love you Las Vegas. Let’s go!”
Herbst started deep in the field but quickly drove his way up to the front and took the lead on the final lap of stage two. From there, Herbst was out in front of the field by over a dozen seconds in the waning laps, and he sealed the victory by 14.959 seconds over runner-up John Hunter Nemechek.
Nemechek also started deep in the field, and he drove himself up to the front before the end of the first stage. He leaves Las Vegas in great shape to advance to the Championship 4, with a 47-point advantage over the cut line. Justin Allgaier, Austin Hill and Cole Custer are the remaining drivers to leave Las Vegas above the cut.
“The No. 98 had the best car,” Nemechek told NBC Sports. “Congrats to Riley, I know he’s trying to win one of these for a long time. Solid day for our No. 20 Pye-Barker Toyota GR Supra, proud of all the guys on this team. We didn’t get to qualify so we started last, got up front and battled in the top five. Just kind of missed the balance a bit compared to the No. 98.”
Herbst’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Custer finished third, while playoff drivers Chandler Smith and Sam Mayer completed the top five. Smith and Mayer are currently 15 and 16 points below the cut, respectively.
Allgaier and Hill battled each other for almost entire final run, and they finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Behind them, Brandon Jones, Daniel Hemric, and Layne Riggs completed the top ten. For Riggs, it was his first top-10 finish in his second Xfinity start.
Already finding themselves in virtually a must-win situation are Sheldon Creed and Sammy Smith, who both leave Las Vegas more than 30 points below the cut line. Creed and Smith struggled for most of the day, sputtering to 15th- and 17th-place finishes, respectively.
The action in Las Vegas got off to a slow start, as multiple cautions took place in rapid succession during the first stage. Stage two started much the same and the biggest incident came when Kaz Grala blew a motor on lap 54 and collected seven other cars.
There were no further cautions for cause, and the final stage ended on a 105-lap green flag run that saw Herbst leave the rest of the field in the dust.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to Homestead-Miami Speedway next week on Saturday (Oct. 21). Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN, and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
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