Saturday, March 6, 2021

XFINITY: Riley Herbst scores first series last-place finish for the #98 since 2001


Riley Herbst picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #98 South Point Hotel & Casino Ford was eliminated in a multi-car accident after 56 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Herbst’s 46th series start. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #98, the 158th for Ford, and the 342nd from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 42nd for the #98, the 969th for Ford, and the 1,241st from an accident.

The 22-year-old third-generation racer whose family operates the Terrible Herbst franchise of gas stations in their native Nevada, Riley Herbst has traded the off-road racing of his father and grandfather for a career in stock car racing. Five years ago, he took seventh in the K&N Pro Series West standings. Four years ago, he took his lone ARCA Menards Series win at Pocono. Three years ago, he finished 6th in his first XFINITY Series race at Iowa and 8th in his first Truck Series race at Gateway. Then two years ago, he nearly pulled off the victory in the Truck Series race at Talladega, where he ultimately finished 3rd. 

Herbst’s rapid ascent is in no small part due to his affiliation with Joe Gibbs Racing, who hired him to run full-time XFINITY in 2020 in the flagship #18 Toyota. In the season’s first 15 races, he finished a season-best 2nd at Fontana, where he came up just short of tracking down teammate Harrison Burton, who that day took his first series win. With his third JGR teammate Brandon Jones taking his own first win the following week in Phoenix, Herbst was on the search for his own. Yet while he matched the runner-up finish at Kentucky and made the Playoffs, he was eliminated at the Charlotte “Roval,” and remained winless at season’s end.

This year, Herbst signed with Stewart-Haas Racing, taking over the equally high-powered #98 Ford that Chase Briscoe drove to nine wins last year. Bringing his sponsorship from Monster Energy, Herbst began the year qualifying 4th for the opener at Daytona. With 15 laps to go in regulation, he tried to run the bottom to clear a developing multi-car wreck in Turn 3. But contact from Justin Allgaier steered him into the pileup, leaving him 26th. On the Daytona road course, he was running behind race leaders A.J. Allmendinger and Austin Cindric, who wrecked each other battling for the Stage 1 win. Herbst pulled onto the grass to avoid them, only to rip the splitter from his car, leaving him 39th. A much-needed 11th-place run at Homestead carried him into his home track at Las Vegas.

With metric qualifying, this put him 12th on the grid. South Point Hotel & Casino, long a sponsor at Richard Childress Racing and the now-retired Brendan Gaughan, came on to sponsor Herbst’s run.

Starting 40th and last was Tyler Reddick, who would have finished runner-up in both Homestead races had his XFINITY car not failed post-race heights, resulting in a disqualification. Our Motorsports had since acquired the #23 team from the RSS Racing and Reaume Brothers Racing combination, taking the place of Our’s brand-new #03 team, which was again sent home. Reddick’s #23 Quartz Hill Records Chevrolet was joined at the back by two drivers with pre-race penalties: 30th-place Jeffrey Earnhardt for unapproved adjustments on the #0 KSDT CPA Chevrolet, and 15th-place Garrett Smithley, who at mid-week was swapped in for J.J. Yeley in Rick Ware Racing’s #17 Trophy Tractor Chevrolet.

Earnhardt was the last car across the stripe, but by the time teammate Colby Howard in the #15 Project Hope Foundation Chevrolet took over the spot at the end of Lap 1, another driver found trouble. Kyle Weatherman lined up 19th in Mike Harmon’s #47 PORAC Chevrolet, which put him in the middle of traffic when a right-rear tire went down in Turn 3. Weatherman saved the car, thanks in part to Tommy Joe Martins, who checked up behind him in his new-look #44 Discover Denton Texas Chevrolet. Weatherman dropped to last as he made it to pit road for a right-side tire change, only to cut another right-rear tire on Lap 6, forcing him to pit road again. Unsure if something was rubbing against his tire, Weatherman went behind the wall on Lap 10.

On Lap 16, just moments before Stefan Parsons’ #99 Dogecoin / Springrates Chevrolet spun in Turn 4 for the first caution of the day, Weatherman re-fired the engine and returned to the track a full 13 laps down. He then made still another stop under yellow to tighten the right-rear wheel. From there, the issue appeared fixed, and Weatherman was running comparable speeds to teammate Bayley Currey in the #74 Lerner & Rowe Chevrolet. “Dammit, this thing’s good,” said Weatherman on Lap 40, when Currey was running 17th.

On the 54th lap, Austin Cindric’s #22 Carquest Auto Parts Ford suddenly slowed with a flat tire, and nearly stopped on the track as he tried to make it to pit road. He missed the entrance, but made it to the apron without a caution. On Lap 57, with Cindric now a lap down, Ty Dillon spun his #54 Toyota Service Centers / Mobil 1 Toyota off Turn 2. Herbst, still on the lead lap and not far behind, came on the scene and collided with Dillon, destroying the right-front corner of Herbst’s car. While Dillon continued on, Herbst only made it to pit road before the team requested a wrecker. Once again, a wreck avoidance had knocked Herbst out of the race. He took last from Weatherman on Lap 69. Weatherman climbed to finish 33rd.

Finishing 39th was Matt Mills, whose #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet pulled behind the wall with electrical issues. Ryan Sieg took 38th after his #39 CMR Construction & Roofing Ford was leaking fluid for the first part of the race, then slipped out of the Top Ten on Lap 65 and destroyed the nose of his car when the splitter hit the grass. Sieg managed to complete eight more laps before the car overheated, putting him behind the wall. Though NASCAR reported him out under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy,” he was listed out due to a “crash.” Timmy Hill’s engine failure put the #66 Toyota in the 37th spot while Stefan Parsons, recovered from his early spin, suffered a fire on pit road that put him out after 137 laps. Parsons was uninjured.

Making only his second series start, Santino Ferrucci impressed with a strong 13th-place finish on the lead lap, even fending off Justin Allgaier, who pushed in his left-rear fender in the final laps. The result was already the third-best finish for Sam Hunt Racing, and their best-ever on a 1.5-mile oval.

One spot behind Allgaier in 15th was Tommy Joe Martins, whose new backing from Denton, Texas’ tourism board lifted him to his best finish of the season, and his best since his career-best 10th-place showing at Texas last fall.

*Herbst is the fifth-straight driver to score their first XFINITY Series last-place finish, and the seventh in the last nine races.
*This marked the first last-place finish for a Ford in an XFINITY Series race since September 1, 2018, when Austin Cindric’s #60 Ford Hall of Fans Ford crashed after 2 laps of the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #98 in an XFINITY Series race in more than two decades. The last time it happened was February 17, 2001, when Elton Sawyer’s #98 Hot Tamales / Starter Ford lost the engine after 6 laps of the NAPA Auto Parts 300.

40) #98-Riley Herbst / 56 laps / crash
39) #5-Matt Mills / 72 laps / electrical
38) #39-Ryan Sieg / 73 laps / crash
37) #66-Timmy Hill / 100 laps / engine
36) #99-Stefan Parsons / 137 laps / fuel line

1st) RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
2nd) DGM Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Ford (1)


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