For Riley Herbst, that long-awaited first career victory has been in the making for quite some time, and on Saturday, in front of his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, a breakthrough finally occurred.
Just days after confirming his return to the second-tier series in 2024, Herbst put forward an incredible performance that very few people could have anticipated, scoring a dominant victory in the Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
After making a last-lap pass on teammate Cole Custer to win the race’s second stage – his second-ever stage win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Herbst wrestled control of the race away early in the final stage, at which point he left everybody to fight for second-place.
A caution-free final stage enabled the Stewart-Haas Racing driver to further build his gap on the field, extending his margin to an incredible 14.959 seconds over runner-up finisher John Hunter Nemechek, at the end of 201 laps around the 1.5-mile facility.
The top two finishers from Saturday’s event — Herbst and Nemechek – both had to start Saturday’s contest from the rear of the field, making the recovery and stellar result by both drivers even more impressive.
Nemechek, who for the second consecutive weekend had to start from the rear of the field due to a mechanical issue in practice, was able to avoid major loss in the championship fight by securing a strong result.
Cole Custer, a teammate to race-winner Riley Herbst, finished in third, after leading 62 of 201 laps in Saturday’s event, while Chandler Smith and Sam Mayer came home in fourth and fifth.
Justin Allgaier would be relegated to a finish of sixth place, after running inside the top five for much of the afternoon, with Austin Hill, Brandon Jones, Daniel Hemric, and Layne Riggs completing the top-10.
Riggs, making his second career start for Kaulig Racing, picked up his first-ever top-10 finish in the Xfinity Series, after running in and around the top-12 throughout the entire afternoon.
Sheldon Creed struggled with his No. 2 Chevrolet throughout the afternoon and finished in 15th place, one lap behind the leader – who set a blistering pace throughout the closing stages of the event.
Meanwhile, Sammy Smith looked to have a vehicle quick enough to run inside the top five all afternoon, but was bitten by a pair of mistakes on pit road, which left the Joe Gibbs Racing driving 17th, two laps down, by race’s end.
Leaving the first race of the ‘Round of 8’, John Hunter Nemechek, Justin Allgaier, Austin Hill, and Cole Custer sit on the positive side of the post-season cutline, while Chandler Smith (-15), Sam Mayer (-16), Sammy Smith (-35), and Sheldon Creed (-41) are looking for points heading to Homestead-Miami Speedway.