Stewart-Haas Racing has just confirmed plans for a key member of the organization. The Tony Stewart and Gene Haas co-owned NASCAR team announced that Riley Herbst will return to the No. 98 Ford Mustang for his second season.
SHR issued a press release on Monday, November 15, and also confirmed that Monster Energy will continue to sponsor Herbst as he pursues another appearance in the playoffs. The beverage company sponsored the No. 98 Ford for 29 races during the 2021 season. Monster Energy also served as Herbst’s primary sponsor during the 2020 season that he spent with Joe Gibbs Racing.
“Monster Energy has been a great partner,” Herbst said in the press release. “They’ve been with me for quite a few years and to have their support in my career means everything. We’ve been close to getting them to victory lane a few times, and I want to get them there soon. I’m excited that they’ll be back with me on the No. 98 Ford Mustang in 2022, as well. Big things are coming for this team.”
Herbst Contended for Wins During the 2021 Season
While he did not reach Victory Lane during the 2021 season, Herbst contended on a regular basis. He posted five top-five finishes and 13 top-10s. His best run was a third-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway behind AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric, who crashed as they crossed the finish line.
Herbst made the playoffs by virtue of points and fought to secure his spot in the Round of Eight during the three opening races. However, two crashes and a suspension issue derailed his playoffs and led to three consecutive finishes outside of the top 25. Herbst fell below the cutline and did not move on to the next round.
While Herbst had considerable issues during his time in the playoffs, he made considerable strides to finish off the year. He posted top-15 finishes at Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway before locking up 10th place at Martinsville Speedway. Herbst ended the year with a fourth-place run at Phoenix, ahead of two championship drivers in Allmendinger and Noah Gragson.
Stewart Had High Praise for Herbst Prior to the Playoffs
Herbst had a tall task entering the 2021 season. He had to fill a seat left by Chase Briscoe, who moved up to the Cup Series and the No. 14 SHR Ford. Briscoe only spent one year in the No. 98, but he turned in a strong performance. He won nine of the 33 races and finished fourth overall in the standings behind Cindric, Justin Allgaier, and Justin Haley.
There was no guarantee that Herbst would match these numbers during his first season with SHR, his second overall as a full-time Xfinity Series driver. Stewart was well aware of this, and he acknowledged that drivers progress at different times. The Hall of Famer also gave Herbst significant praise when discussing his potential.
“I mean, trust me, when I got an Xfinity car, I tore up everything I drove,” Stewart told Heavy during an early September interview. “It took a long time before the light switch came on for me to start having success. So I think it’s scenarios like that. And Riley is a very young kid that literally that light switch can come at any moment. And when it does, I mean, he can get on a tear and get on a run that we’ve seen in the past with both Cole [Custer] and Chase [Briscoe].”
Herbst will have the opportunity to “flip this switch” when he returns to the No. 98 for the 2022 Xfinity Series season. He will kick off the year on Saturday, February 19, at Daytona International Speedway.
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