Race Winner: AJ Allmendinger of Kaulig Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 1 Winner: Justin Allgaier of JR Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner: Daniel Hemric of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Riley Herbst delivered a strong third-place drive in the Food City 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race Friday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. It was his second straight top-five finish, as the driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang finished fifth in the series’ prior race at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. The string of strong runs punched Herbst’s ticket to the NASCAR Playoffs, as he finished 10th in the regular-season point standings to earn a spot in the 12-driver playoffs, which kick off Sept. 25 at Herbst’s hometown track – Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The third-place finish at Bristol was Herbst’s best result so far this season. It didn’t come easy. Herbst started eighth, but he got caught on the high-side of the .533-mile oval in the opening laps. This relegated him to 15th. But Herbst’s tenacity combined with savvy pit calls from crew chief Richard Boswell enabled the Monster Energy machine to line up first for a restart on lap 180. The resulting dogfight displaced Herbst to third, and despite a tight-handling racecar, he only fell back to sixth. As the race wound down toward its finish, Herbst kept his head while others lost theirs. A caution on lap 298 set up a green-white-checkered finish. The leaders beat and banged on each other in the final two laps, but Herbst kept his cool, pointing his Monster Energy Ford Mustang into the gaps left wide open as the leaders slammed doors and the wall. Herbst took third place from Justin Allgaier off turn four of the final lap while the race’s top protagonists– AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric – crashed and spun across the finish line, with Allmendinger nipping Cindric for the win and the regular-season championship.
Riley Herbst, driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
“That was fun. A lot of people using their bumpers out here tonight and kind of what I expected just because it’s the regular-season cutoff and playoff points are on the line. It got aggressive, but it was cool. We kept ourselves in position. Richard Boswell and the 98 team gave us a really good strategy and a really good car. Once the caution came and the overtime happened, I knew it was gonna be kind of hectic. It’s just a product of Bristol. People got aggressive. Everybody wants to win at this place. This place is awesome. It was ten tenths there the last few laps and all hell kind of broke loose, but we were able to come away third and we’ll take it headed to Las Vegas. Thank you to Monster Energy and Ford Performance. Man, I’m so excited to go home next week and try to go race for a championship. It’s gonna be fun. I’ve been looking forward to going home for a long time and I think we can win at home next week and move to the Round of 8. We’re very capable of winning and we’re ready to go do it.”
● This is Herbst’s second straight playoff appearance. He qualified for the 2020 postseason as an Xfinity Series rookie.
● Herbst’s third-place result bettered his previous best finish at Bristol – 10th, earned last August.
● Allmendinger’s victory in the Food City 300 was his ninth career Xfinity Series victory, his fourth of the season and his first at Bristol. His margin over second-place Cindric was .082 of a second.
● There were 10 caution periods for a total of 72 laps.
● Only 14 of the 40 drivers in the Food City 300 finished on the lead lap.
● Allmendinger and Cindric both lead the playoff standings as each hold a 24-point advantage over Allgaier, their nearest pursuer.
● Herbst is 11th in the playoff standings, 43 points behind the leaders.
The next event on the Xfinity Series schedule is the Alsco Uniforms 302 on Saturday, Sept. 25 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It is the first race of the seven-race playoffs and the first race in the Round of 12. It starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.