By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
For this week’s edition of Climbing the Ladder, Seth Eggert sat down with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Riley Herbst at Bristol Motor Speedway. The 19-year-old is the driver of the No. 18 NOS / ORCA Coolers / Advance Auto Parts Toyota Camry in the ARCA Racing Series. Herbst won the 2017 Scott Rookie of the Year Award in ARCA.
Herbst is currently third in ARCA’s Championship Points Standings, 410-Points behind Sheldon Creed. The Las Vegas, NV native has also competed with DGR – Crosley Group and Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, as well as JGR in the Xfinity Series this season.
Seth Eggert: Why did you follow your father and grandfather’s footsteps into Motorsports?
Riley Herbst: “I feel like that’s all I’ve known. I grew up around motorsports my whole life, like many of the other kids out here. My passion has been asphalt racing.”
SE: How did you convince your parents to let you race? Was it difficult?
RH: “I don’t think it was too tough. Everyone wants to race professionally, but it’s hard to make it. So, we wanted to give it a shot to see if we could make it.”
SE: Where and when was your first race?
RH: “No, but I remember when I got my first racecar. It was my fifth birthday, I walked out to the garage and there was a go-kart sitting out there. I was pretty pumped as a kid. That brings back good memories.”
SE: With your family’s background in off-road racing, how did you move into stock cars?
RH: “Like I said, off-road racing is a lot of fun and it’s difficult with its own challenges, but it’s tough to make a career out of off-road racing. Yes, you would also have to have a job. I wanted to see if we could make it in NASCAR racing.”
SE: Who would you consider your mentor?
RH: “Somebody I know personally would probably be my Dad. Somebody I look up to, it would probably be Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch. Someone in that nature.”
SE: What inspires you to compete?
RH: “To win. That’s what gets me up every morning because I want to be the best person to ever do it.”
SE: ‘Terrible Herbst,’ where did that come from?
RH: “That’s not my nickname. That was my Great-Grandfather’s nickname. And that’s the name of the company that my parents own back home.”
SE: Last year, you earned your first career ARCA win at Pocono Raceway. Can you describe the emotions of that day?
RH: “It was awesome. I don’t remember much about the day itself, or anything like that. I remember pulling into victory lane, celebrating with all of my guys. All the hard work paid off.”
SE: Is there a specific track that you want to win at?
RH: “Any track at this point, especially with how our season has been going in the ARCA Series. I’ll take a win at the dirt track.”
SE: Last year, you had to sit out Daytona because you were not of age. However, you still managed to finish fifth in points. How frustrating was it to see your car be driven by another driver?
RH: “It’s always frustrating. I haven’t thought about that in a while. I never want to see that ever happen again.”
SE: You made your debut in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (for Kyle Busch Motorsports) and Xfinity Series (for Joe Gibbs Racing) this year, finishing in the Top-10 in both. How much did you learn in those starts?
RH: “A lot, especially how much different they drive compared to one another. That’s what I’m doing here, getting laps and experience in the Truck Series, and trying to learn each time I get on track.”
SE: How much did that seat time help you in the ARCA car?
RH: “A lot. Laps in anything, seat time is the best. All of these different vehicles that I’m racing comes over to the ARCA car.”
SE: What is your outlook for the remainder of the ARCA season?
RH: “I’m going to try to put it all on the line, get some victories.
SE: Earlier this year, NASCAR announced that they were acquiring ARCA. Have you seen any differences, improvements, etc., since that announcement at Talladega?
RH: “Not much at all. I’ve been told that you won’t see anything until 2020. Hopefully I’ll be out of the ARCA Series by then, but who knows.”
SE: This is your first time to Bristol Motor Speedway, and later in the season you will be going to ISM Raceway for the first time. What is it like to go to these tracks for the first time?
RH: “It’s a little nerve-wracking, but you have got to do it at some point or another. Why not now and try to get laps and experience now to be able to perform tomorrow?”
SE: What does the future hold for you, where will you be one year from now?
RH: “I don’t know. I’m just focused on today at Bristol Motor Speedway, the next couple of Truck races, and finishing out this year in ARCA.”