Two days after extending his contract with Stewart-Haas Racing, Riley Herbst proved why he belongs in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The No. 98 Ford driver dominated the Alsco Uniforms 302 on Saturday afternoon, leading 103 of 201 laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to pick up his first career Xfinity Series victory in his 139th career start.
“This year was such a failure that we didn’t make the playoffs. It’s so embarrassing to be in a car like this that doesn’t make the playoffs and walk in the garage each week with your head down, but Davin Restivo and all these guys on the 98 team told me to keep my head up and we’re gonna go win a race and that’s what we did. I can’t fathom it,” Herbst said.
He held off Xfinity Series points leader John Hunter Nemechek by 14.959 seconds at the checkered flag.
“Congrats to Riley. I know he’s been trying to win one of these for a long time,” Nemechek said. “I’m glad we ended up finishing second. If we couldn’t win, finishing second was a really good day, especially from how things started this weekend. Overall, solid day, plus 47 to the cutline — good points day. We will take it and move on to Homestead and try and win there.”
Nemechek started 38th after being unable to qualify on Friday.
Notably, Herbst was the only non-playoff driver to finish in the top seven.
SHR’s Cole Custer, Kaulig Racing’s Chandler Smith, JR Motorsports’ Sam Mayer, JRM’s Justin Allgaier and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill filed in behind Nemechek.
JRM’s Brandon Jones and Kaulig Racing teammates Daniel Hemric and Layne Riggs completed the top 10.
Playoff drivers Sheldon Creed and Sammy Smith didn’t fare as well as their competitors, finishing 15th and 17th.
Custer won stage one, while Herbst won the second stage.
There was one red flag in the Alsco Uniforms 302, which occurred on lap 55 after Kaz Grala lost an engine while running 18th and caused a multi-car accident, which involved Brennan Poole, Rajah Caruth, Jeremy Clements, Anthony Alfredo and Kyle Weatherman.
“Just was going down the frontstretch, heading into turn one — was actually making a pass — and it just let go as soon as let off the throttle going into the corner, and I was along for the ride in my own oil. It looks like there were several others in the same boat behind me,” Grala said.
There were five total cautions.