Riley Herbst is about to begin the NASCAR Xfinity Series Round of 12. The Las Vegas native will return to his hometown track and fight for the checkered flag. Winning and moving on to the Round of Eight will not be a simple task, but Herbst can achieve this goal by “flipping a switch.”
The driver of the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang met with media members on Tuesday, Sept. 21, to preview the playoffs. He explained during the session that he appreciates team co-owner Tony Stewart’s support during his first year with SHR and that he is very close to securing his first win at the Xfinity Series level. Once Herbst reaches Victory Lane for the first time, he expects to begin locking up wins on a regular basis.
“I don’t think that [Stewart] would have me drive his race car if he didn’t think that I could win and produce and ultimately get him checkered flags or trophies,” Herbst told “Heavy” during the session. “Hopefully, we can get him a trophy this weekend and lock ourselves into the Round of Eight. But I think it’s soon, and I think it’s around the corner. But once we do get that trophy coming, I think there will be a lot more on the way.”
Stewart Expressed Considerable Faith in Herbst Prior to the Playoffs
The co-owner of SHR sat down with “Heavy” prior to the start of the playoffs to primarily discuss a promotion with Mobil 1, but he also took time to discuss his young Xfinity Series driver. Stewart explained during the interview that Herbst has the ability to win several races in a season as teammate Chase Briscoe did before him but that the process may simply take a little bit of extra time.
“I mean, trust me, when I got an Xfinity car, I tore up everything I drove,” Stewart told Heavy during an 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].”
Stewart continued to explain that the amount of time that it takes Herbst to win is not quite as important. He understands that drivers progress at different levels. What matters is the end result. Stewart wants Herbst to win, and he knows that SHR will play an important role by helping the young driver build confidence each and every week.
Herbst Has Identified Some Areas Where He Can Quickly Improve
Stewart has faith in the driver of the No. 98 Ford as the playoffs begin, but Herbst knows that there are ways in which he can improve. He can help himself make his way to the Round of Eight by avoiding issues that plagued him in the past and by continuing a recent run of success.
“We have to execute from my standpoint behind the wheel,” Herbst said, per Fox Sports reporter Bob Pockrass. “No mistakes on pit road. Stop trying too hard, being a little too eager, driving too aggressively, getting into incidents or wrecks. Honestly, I think our last month’s finishes have kind of trended in that direction.”
Herbst specifically mentioned the consecutive top-five finishes that helped him secure a spot in the playoffs. He took fifth at Richmond Raceway, rebounding from a crash and a 38th-place run at Darlington. He then finished off the regular season with third place at Bristol Motor Speedway, guaranteeing that he would join 11 other drivers in fighting for the championship trophy.
Herbst has four top-five finishes in the 2021 Xfinity Series season, matching his career-high from 2020. He has seven more opportunities to surpass this figure and potentially win the first race of his Xfinity career. However, his primary goal remains the same — keep moving through the playoff rounds and reach the championship race at Phoenix on Nov. 6.