Interview: Riley Herbst is on a mission

Riley Herbst is gearing up to return to Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang for his third season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

A member of Stewart-Haas Racing since 2021, Herbst has had a consistent campaign in 2022 with three top three finishes, eight top fives, and 20 top 10s—enough for a spot in qualifying and ultimately 10th in points. Gaining experience and confidence with every race he runs, Herbst has been happy with 2022 and sees it as a strong starting point in 2023.

“We had a strong 2022 season,” says Herbst. “We had a group of top fives and a group of top 10s. This year I will be able to get to know my teammate Cole Custer. I really think this will help our program tremendously, and hopefully we can work together and end up in victory lane.

“I loved the 2022 season, but I didn’t. Obviously we want to win. We want to win everything. Hopefully we can take that next step this year and get on the road to victory and start collecting trophies.

“We’re really focused on consistency as we go into 2023. Consistency is key in all of the races, but especially in NASCAR. Hopefully we can continue to build that consistency, and that consistency can take us even higher as that top three can turn into Wins and more poles, more laps led, more stage points and all that stuff. We’re just trying to take that next step this year and be better than we were last year.”

Two people that Herbst believes have been of great importance to him throughout his tenure on the Xfinity series are Kevin Harvick and SHR crew chief Richard Boswell.

“Obviously, with Kevin Harvick, 2023 will be his last year,” says Herbst. “He’s coming out big and it’s great to watch. He’s my childhood hero, so it’s great to be in the industry while he’s in his senior year. I also signed with Kevin Harvick Incorporated which he runs. He helped me get off the track in a big way. He points me in the right direction.” And he gives me advice on and off the racetrack, which is so amazing.

“Richard Boswell is a great guy. He’s a really good crew chief. He’s a racer and loves going out on the racetrack. And the team itself is excellent. It’s the start of my third year with them. It’s great. Stewart-Haas is a shop full of winners and racers, and they do everything they can to support us on the team.” 98 and they definitely feel at home.”

Team boss Tony Stewart is also keeping a close eye on Herbst.

“Tony comes to quite a few races,” says Herbst. “Man, he’s the racer of the racers. When he’s not at the track with us, he’s at the track with his wife, or at some other race competing in a dirt car. He’s even doing some drag racing now. He’s the very definition of a racer.”

The 2023 Xfinity Series kicks off in Daytona on February 18th. It’s history that Herbst says can’t come soon enough.

“I’m excited to go after it,” he says. “I know we can be there in the end. I believe with anything in life and in racing, confidence is key. Over the past six to eight months I have felt increasingly confident in my abilities. I am also very confident in my preparation and in the work I do. “I really trust my crew chief and my team. It all means good things, and hopefully it means victory lane soon.”

“Daytona is one of our biggest races of the year, but it’s a wild race to say the least. We’ll be working closely with Cole in ’00 and hopefully we can work together and draft and be on top when it comes to that. Cole and I are good friends. I’ve known him for a little while and he has We’ve already started planning for Daytona and how best to attack that track, how to work together and how to help the team in general.”

After the Daytona race opener, the Xfinity Series will head to Auto Club Speedway followed by Phoenix Raceway on March 25th.

“It’s very important,” says Herbst. “You have to be consistent for the first 10 races and then you can race after that because the field is so close together. All of these race tracks are so much fun and I feel like we are going to be competitive on every track.”

Ahead of all that comes NASCAR Xfinity Series testing, which is scheduled for January 30th in Charlotte.

“This would be a good day to practice and get some training and get your feet back in motor racing and get your head right,” he says. “It will be nice to instruct the new team members here with the team, and I will be able to make myself comfortable in the race car again. It is good that they gave us this test.”

While the ultimate goal is to ride the trophy, Herbst’s immediate priority is to make some Xfinity-level wins.

“I would love to race in the Cup Series and I would love to be a Cup Series winner, but now I want to win races in the Xfinity Series and be the Champion and then we can talk about the Cup Series at a later time,” he says.

“We’re sticking to what we need to do to go and try to win these races and fight for the championship. We’re putting the puzzle together piece by piece, and it goes together really well. Our spirits at Stewart-Haas Racing are really good. We’re very eager to start the season and we’ll try to win some “The races and competing for the championships. I really want him to win the first race. It has to happen. Hopefully it’s in our first race at Daytona. If not, we’ll keep working hard and we’ll pull it off.”

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