RICHMOND, Va. - Riley Herbst would like nothing better than to make the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs, which open in his hometown of Las Vegas in two weeks. He took another step toward achieving that goal on Saturday at Richmond Raceway with a fifth-place finish that topped all Ford drivers.
Herbst and crew chief Richard Boswell were on the right side of when to put on their final set of new tires, and that made all the difference. When caution came out with 68 laps to go, Herbst was one of 10 drivers that stayed out while the others opted for their last set of fresh rubber. That decision paid dividends when Josh Williams brought out the caution with 27 laps to go, allowing Herbst to pit and set up his final dash to the front.
Austin Cindric, who led 50 laps on the afternoon, was on the opposite side of the strategy as he pitted for his final set when Herbst stayed out and was forced to hang on the rest of the way to post a 16th-place finish. Cindric, who came into the race one point behind AJ Allmendinger for the points lead, finished two spots ahead of him in the race but still lost ground as Allmendinger won the first stage.
Ryan Sieg employed the same pit strategy as Herbst and finished 13th.
Cindric is five points behind Allmendinger going into next weekend’s final regular season race at Bristol Motor Speedway while Herbst holds the final playoff position on points. He also has an opportunity to gain at least two spots as he trails Brandon Jones by one point and Jeremy Clements by eight points.
The regular season wraps up on Friday, Sept. 17 at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
FORD FINISHING RESULTS
5th -- Riley Herbst
13th -- Ryan Sieg
16th -- Austin Cindric
RILEY HERBST, No. 98 Go Bowling Ford Mustang
“That was food for sure. I wish we didn’t get the late cautions there because maybe we could have stole a win, but all in all I think that’s what we needed going to Bristol next week. We maintained the points and hopefully we’ll go playoff racing back home.”
THE TIRE STRATEGY WORKED OUT FOR YOU DIDN’T IT?
“That was all Richard, honestly. We were just playing defense because we couldn’t afford to have anybody else win, so we had to play defense instead of offense. Luckily, it paid off a little bit and it was a good deal.”
HOW DIFFERENT WAS IT ON FRESH TIRES BEING ABLE TO DRIVE THROUGH THERE?
“It’s got a lot more grip, but with that being said it’s disappointing that we couldn’t get further than fifth. Like I said, maybe it would have been a different outcome with the different cautions.”
YOU BEAT THE 1, SO YOUR CUSHION IS A LITTLE BIGGER. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BRISTOL?
“I feel good. We like Bristol. The 98 team won there last year, so we feel good. I just want to go home and go playoff racing.”
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 22 Carshop Ford Mustang
“It just wasn’t in the cards for us today with our Carshop Ford Mustang. It felt like we had a top five car. We struggled to find an underlying strength and overlying weakness that we could kind of play to throughout the day. We probably just didn’t quite have enough in a few areas and we just kind of got behind there with the correct tire strategy. We did the right thing putting on tires at the end and kind of minimizing our loss at least points wise, so it was obviously the right move, but I thought today was gonna be a little bit better. This racetrack is one of those that it’s easy to have a bad day and not that I think we salvaged everything out of it because, like I said, I thought we were a top five car, but we never gave up.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BRISTOL NEXT WEEK AND THE BATTLE WITH AJ?
“I certainly have unfinished business at Bristol based on the last year, so I’m pretty hungry for that racetrack. Forget about the points, we’ve got to go out there and try and win the race, so if we can do that, I’ll be pretty happy one way or the other.”