2004 NASCAR Cup champion Kurt Busch, speaking about fellow Las Vegas native and Stewart-Haas Racing racer Riley Herbst prior to this Saturday’s 300-mile Xfinity Series race at Kansas Speedway:
“With Riley Herbst and the way he keeps improving, he’s knocking on the door and getting ever so close to that first win and just being able to be in that comfortable spot. There are times when guys get opportunities to race, but you’ve got to be up front and you’ve got to be knocking the door down and Riley is right there”
Poised for his 101st career Xfinity Series start this Saturday afternoon in Kansas City, Kansas, Herbst, aged 23, is looking to both lock himself into the Xfinity Series playoffs, as well as deliver his first victory in the series.
“It’s close,” nodded the driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang. “We’ve been close a lot of times this year and we are kind of a dark horse pick, so it’s kind of cool to have that little bit of chip on your shoulder and be that sleeper team. It’s cool especially with how competitive everything is in the series right now. Hopefully, we can break through and get to victory lane and become more of a favorite in people’s eyes. It’s cool to be on the radar, for sure, and for us to be competing at a top level.
“And we are the highest placed driver and team without a win here in the Xfinity Series, so that depends on what side of the coin you’re looking at as that can be a good or a bad thing. But we’re working really hard every day at the race shop to bring better race cars and to bring faster race cars to go and try and win these races.”
Kansas and Bristol, the final two races before the start of the NASCAR playoffs at Texas Motor Speedway the weekend of September 24 and 25, will both be of terrific importance to Herbst and the No. 98 outfit. i
“For sure, these races will be big,” said Herbst. “I love Kansas. It’s one of my favorite racetracks. Hopefully, we can go there with a lot of speed. Last year wasn’t a good performance by any means. [ED: Herbst was 13th in the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity race at Kansas]. We just didn’t get the balance of the car right, so I didn’t driver properly as well. Hopefully, this weekend we will have a really fast Monster Energy car and be able to park it in victory lane
“And as far as Bristol, that place is hectic. It’s so crazy. It’s so fast. A little half-mile and high-banked. It’s so much fun to go and battle there and rub some fenders.
“It’s just racing the racetrack each week. Obviously, it’s important to beat all 40 competitors you’re up against at every race, but you can’t beat yourself. We’re racing ourselves, we’re racing the racetrack and we’re trying to put ourselves in good positions every week. Once we are in good positions, we can go capitalize on good results and ultimately winning some races. There’s a confidence that my guys have in me and a confidence I have in my car and I have in my guys. We just keep building. If you show up at the racetrack and know you have a chance to win the race or a chance to run in the top five, that’s so important to have. We do have that, and that’s a very cool thing,”
Herbst also talked about what has turned himself, crew chief Richard Boswell and the No. 98 team to a consistent top 10, front-running operation in NASCAR’s middleweight division.
“Communication. That’s what it all boils down to,” said Herbst. “Our communication is very, very good. Our chemistry between each other and between the entire No.98 team is really high. We’re just a group of guys who go to the racetrack and put our best foot forward and have a good time doing it, too. We don’t take it too seriously because racing is supposed to be fun. That’s what we are doing. We’re having fun and we are doing our best.”