Statistics were not on Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst side when he entered the eighth race of the season at Talladega on Saturday for the Ag-Pro 300.
His two Xfinity starts at Talladega ended prematurely thanks to multiple wrecks, leading to two finishes outside the top-35.
That luck change on Saturday, when Herbst ended up finishing the day in fourth place thanks to an early ending due to weather. He ties his best finish of the 2021 season, and set a new personal best finish at the famed super speedway in his Xfinity Series career.
“It kind of sucks that we couldn’t race for a win there, but with our last couple of finishes I’m kind of happy with a fourth-place finish,” said Herbst post-race.
The Las Vegas native rolled off 19th thanks to the performance matrix, after starting the previous two races within the top-10. He kept his Monster Energy Ford clean and out of trouble for what was a relatively tame, and quick paced race. Thanks to the lack of Ford Mustangs in the field, Herbst was forced to work with other cars at a racetrack that is seemingly dependent on teammate and manufacturer strategy.
Following a caution on lap 77 for Josh Berry, Herbst found himself in close proximity to the fellow Mustangs of Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg. All three drivers began working together to begin a charge towards the front before a multi-car wreck on lap 86. This would be the final caution of the race, leading to a red flagging for rain, and eventual end to the day.
The Ford drivers of Cindric, Herbst, and Sieg would claim three of the top-five positions in the results.
“It was kind of hectic,” he said. “We only have a few teammates. I honestly have no teammates, so just working with the manufacturer, Ford, but we couldn’t find them for the whole day and then, finally, there at the last five or six laps we found them – the No. 39 and the No. 22.”
The second top-five finish of the season for Herbst is a bright spot in what’s been a rollercoaster of a season for the Las Vegas native. In his first four starts of the year, Herbst crashed out of three races including the season opener at Daytona. He rebound with an 11th place finish at Homestead, before crashing out of his home race and being scored as finishing last.
Despite a 26th place finish at Martinsville, Herbst has finished in the top-six in three of the last four races, and continues to hover around the cutline for the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. He sits 13th in points follow Talladega, one position shy of his highest place of the 2021 season. Should he not win a race in the No. 98, which made its way to the Championship 4 in 2020, he will have to race his way in on points.
“The first part of the season hasn’t gone like we’ve hoped it would, but we’ve definitely learned a lot that we can carry with us throughout the rest of the season,” said Herbst. “It’s always a learning curve when you go to a new team. I’m starting to get into my groove and the guys are starting to learn what I need out of our Monster Energy Ford Mustang. If we can stay out of trouble, we can run up front.”
The Xfinity Series season takes a brief pause before heading back on track for NASCAR Throwback Weekend at Darlington. Herbst only has two starts at Darlington in the Xfinity Series, finishing 18th and fourth respectively.
Fans can tune into the Steakhouse Elite 200 from the track “Too Tough To Tame” on Saturday, May 8th at 1 PM EST on FOX Sports 1, the FOX Sports App, and the Motor Racing Network.