Race Weekend Central

Eyes on Xfinity: Is Riley Herbst the Way-Too-Early Favorite Next Year?

Rumors circulated all silly season about Riley Herbst’s future in NASCAR. Was he going back to the NASCAR Xfinity Series? Was he bound for the next level?

Those rumors got put to rest on Oct. 12 when Herbst announced that he was back in the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang Xfinity ride next season.

Herbst immediately followed that announcement with his first ever win in the Xfinity Series on Saturday (Oct. 14) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. What’s more? He did it in the playoffs, where other drivers have their seasons on the line and are racing like their livelihoods depend on it, because they do.

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This raised a question: Should Herbst be one of the championship favorites headed into next season?

Look around the room. Joe Gibbs Racing is in a state of cluster with Sammy Smith leaving and other drivers taking rides elsewhere. JR Motorsports is bringing on Smith, but losing Josh Berry. Sure, Sam Mayer and Justin Allgaier will still be around, but if you compare Herbst to Brandon Jones, I’ll take the former every time.

As for Richard Childress Racing, it still hasn’t announced who the driver of the No. 2 Whelen Camaro will be, and Herbst has shown himself to be more than competitive with the best of the best drivers on superspeedways like Austin Hill.

There’s an ample chance here for Herbst to come out next season with a) one of the most stable positions in the garage and b) one of the fastest cars in the garage.

He’s been one of the only fast Fords the past few years, and if SHR can keep the Xfinity car that way, things could be looking up for the young Las Vegas native.

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That youth is another key point. Herbst is only 24. His best years are still ahead of him, and with the options he was rumored to have outside of SHR this offseason, I’d bet the brass told him they were ready to put serious resources and help around him as well. There are plenty of NASCAR Cup Series drivers that think a lot of Herbst as well, just ask Chase Briscoe and NASCAR Legend Mark Martin.

That’s high praise from some of the best in the game now and one of the best to ever do it. One thing is for certain – there should be at least one fast Ford in the Xfinity field next year, and Herbst will be at the wheel of that Monster Energy machine.

About the author

Tanner Marlar is a staff writer for On3 Sports' Maroon and White Daily covering Mississippi State Athletics, an AP Wire reporter, an award-winning sports columnist and talk show host and master's student at Mississippi State University. Soon, Tanner will be pursuing a PhD. in Communicative Research.

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