By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
NEWTON, Iowa — The NASCAR XFINITY Series at Iowa Speedway typically produces great racing and more often than not good story lines of drivers making their series debuts. With the standalone weekend, NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series regulars typically don’t make the trip to Iowa. Riley Herbst got the opportunity to pilot the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and the Las Vegas, Nevada native took full advantage.
Making the final round of knockout qualifying for Sunday’s Iowa 250, Herbst rolled off from the ninth position and ran inside the top-10 throughout the first two 60-lap stages.
The major issue for Herbst hit at Lap 201 when he brought his No. 18 Toyota down pit road for fresh tires and fuel and was assessed a penalty for speeding on pit road entry. The infraction dropped the 19-year-old back to the 16th spot for the ensuing restart but he was able to recover over the final 45 laps to cross the stripe with a sixth-place result.
“I came here to learn as much as I possibly could and I feel like I did that. We came home sixth; I would have liked a top-five but all-in-all it was a good day.
“The penalty was kind of frustrating because I feel like we got pushed into that pit road speeding penalty. I’ve never had anything like this but I guess that’s what you do to get people to speed. I was on the brakes, but I could see I was going faster than he was and I knew we sped.”
As for picking up ten spots in the final run to the checkered flag?
“That was just a testament to our team on how good the car was all day,” said Herbst.
The temperature at the 4 p.m. CDT green flag was 90 degrees with a heat index of 101 and the temperatures took a toll on drivers for the second straight day in Iowa.
“I felt like that was definitely the hottest I’ve ever been in the race car. I just stay hydrated all day in and out of the race car and tried to save ourselves for the end.”
Herbst will now head to Gateway Motorsports Park for another double-duty weekend. On Friday, he will compete in the ARCA Racing Series, piloting his full-time ride in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, where he currently sits third in the championship standings.
Herbst will then continue the debut trend by making his first start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in a Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota on Saturday.
“I’m really excited. Gateway is a super unique track with flat ends. I know everybody at Kyle Busch Motorsports will give me a great No. 51 Advanced Auto truck so I’m looking forward to heading to St. Louis next week.