Riley Herbst on taking the next step with RWR

NASCAR Cup team owner Rick Ware has brought Riley Herbst into the Rick Ware Racing Cup Series program for multiple 2024 races, explaining that he sees clear progression in the 24-year-old.

“Riley continues to impress as a driver,” said Ware. “He showcased what we could do together by securing a top 10 in his first Cup Series start in last year’s Daytona 500, so we look forward to using that as our benchmark when we return to do it again in a few weeks.“

Herbst will line up for Stewart-Haas Racing in the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford in Saturday’s season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona, and will wheel the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford Mustang in today’s Cup Series Duels ahead of Sunday’s Daytona 500.


“This is the most excited I’ve been for our season in a long time,” said Herbst. “I finished the Xfinity season last year with five straight top-five finishes and a win at Las Vegas (pictured above) and all of that just provided so much momentum and chemistry with the team in 2023. I am just ready to continue that this year and get some more wins.

“And yeah, it’s gonna be double duty, so it’s huge for me,” acknowledged the Las Vegas native. “Thank you to Stewart Haas Racing for doing a collaboration with Rick Ware Racing. Thanks for having the support and the backing from everybody. It’s gonna be awesome. As far as I see it, it is every person’s dream to race in the ‘Great American Race,’ the Daytona 500. Me getting to do it this year is pretty special.”

Herbst enters his fifth year in the Xfinity Series after a highly competitive 2023 season where he not only won his first career NASCAR race and consistently ran in the top five, but gained self-confidence.

“Yeah, the confidence is key in any sort of racing,” admitted Herbst. “You always believe in yourself, but if you’ve never done it, it’s hard to continue with that confidence. But now that we get it, the confidence has skyrocketed and we’re just ready to build on that and continue to grow. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve grown as a race car driver and as a person. Real big things are in store for us and we’re ready to go obtain them.”

A key variable in Herbst’s development as both a racer and a competitor has come from his close working relationship with crew chief Davin Restivo.

“Yeah, Davin has been great. He has been a great addition,” Herbst said. “The confidence he instills in myself and everybody on the team is second to none and I love the way he conducts himself and the team and the confidence he has to go win every race.

“I think racing is about who surround yourself with. From everybody like the guys at Monster Energy, Kevin Harvick and Kevin Harvick Incorporated and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing, we are surrounded by good people. They’re dependent on me, but I’m depending on them. So we win together. We lose together for sure.

“I’m continuing to develop in this sport. I’m proud of how I have become a better race car driver. What has really helped me I think is just being curious and asking questions. You’re here to learn and you’re here to get better. I don’t think you can learn without asking questions. I just kind of study a lot of film. There are lot of ideas bouncing back and forth between me and my teammate Cole Custer. Repetition is key — just understanding your surroundings and putting yourself in good positions. Sometimes you put yourself in bad positions to learn from. Hopefully positions that are more good than bad, but it’s all about repetition.”

Riley Herbst is soaking up all the NASCAR experience he can get. Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

Speaking of learning, doubling up in Cup and Xfinity races helps drive home the differences between the two cars for Herbst.

“Yeah, they’re very different from the way they drive and from the way you shift them — the downforce on them is way different,” Herbst explained. They are extremely different race cars. So that’s going to be another challenge this year, going back and forth between the Cup and Xfinity cars. It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to where I can continue to learn and continue to grow.

Competing in the Cup Series is the ultimate goal Herbst is looking towards, though: “I want to continue to win races and to compete for a championship in the Xfinity Series, but everybody wants to make it to Cup one day and race at the highest level. So I am working every day to achieve that.”

Herbst hopes he and Stewart-Haas Racing will continue to build on the momentum they built during the 2023 Xfinity Series, particularly in its later races.

“We’re gonna approach Xfinity the same way we did at the end of last year where we were showing up at the racetrack knowing we can win every week,” said Herbst. “We’ll be looking to dominate races and go in there with the attitude that we can do it.That was a really good points grab the last five or six races. So we will be continuing that and knowing we still have a lot of work in front of us, but we are right there for the opportunity.”

The positivity and support Cup owner Rick Ware has been throwing his way lately has also made a strong impression on Herbst.

“Yes, it’s good to hear that stuff from Rick, for sure,” he agreed. “He’s somebody who’s heavily involved in motorsports and involved in lot of different series with IMSA and IndyCar and Supercross and NHRA drag racing. He does a little bit of everything and it’s cool to be aligned with a guy like that. You know, everybody in this sport walks and runs at different times and we’re ready to take that next step this year and be contenders weekend week-in and week-out. I know we can do it.”

Story originally appeared on Racer