Riley Herbst begins 2021 with the familiar colors of Monster Energy, but in a new make with a number. He takes over the No. 98 Ford Mustang from Chase Briscoe, who scored nine wins in 2020. Herbst made the move to Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) after spending the 2019-2020 seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing. This will be Herbst’s first year behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang.
While Briscoe has departed the No. 98, the crew chief who helped secure those nine wins in 2020 has not. Richard Boswell returns as the crew chief on the No. 98 Monster Energy team for a fifth straight year. Boswell’s father, Dickie, successfully campaigned a late model stock car out of their hometown of Friendship, Maryland. The elder Boswell ultimately competed in 57 Xfinity Series races spread over six seasons in the 1980s. Although he never made it to the elite NASCAR Cup Series, the senior Boswell totaled four top-fives in the stepping-stone division to the NASCAR Cup Series.
• The 2020 season was Herbst’s sophomore year in the Xfinity Series. He earned four top-fives and 17 top-10s and clinched a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs, ultimately finishing 12th in the championship standings. His two second-place finishes Feb. 29 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and July 9 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, are career-bests.
• Herbst is 21 years old, but will soon be 22 as his birthday is Feb. 24. With 43 Xfinity Series starts on a resume that includes four top-five and 21 top-10 finishes, Herbst has his sights set on his first career Xfinity Series victory. His youth and recent history are on his side. Consider:
▬ Ten of the last 12 races at Daytona have been won by drivers 26 years old or younger.
▬ Only one of the last 11 superspeedway winners was older than 28.
▬ Seven drivers got their first Xfinity Series win at Daytona, including the winner of the season opener the last two years (Michael Annett in 2019 and Noah Gragson in 2020) and Herbst’s car owner, Tony Stewart (2005).
▬ Each of the last 11 races at Daytona have been won by a different driver, tying the track record.
▬ Herbst’s best Daytona result came in his most recent Daytona start. He finished fourth last August.
• This will be Herbst’s fourth Xfinity Series start on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval. He only has one finish outside the top-20 at Daytona – a lone 32nd place result after a crash ended his day in last year’s season opener. In his three previous Xfinity Series starts at Daytona, Herbst scored a top-10 and two top-20s.
• Herbst has four other starts on Daytona’s oval outside of the Xfinity Series. He has three starts in the ARCA Menards Series and one in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. His best finish was seventh in the 2020 Truck Series season opener.
Riley Herbst, Driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang
You’re starting 2021 with a new team in Stewart-Haas Racing and a new car in the form of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang. What’s on your mind heading into the season-opener at Daytona?
“It’s the first race of the year and I’m ready to get to work. I’m excited to see how practice flows with Richard (Boswell). It’s a time for him to learn my language and for me to learn his language during the real deal. Qualifying is going to be good. We haven’t qualified since Phoenix, almost a year ago. I’m excited about everything that’s going on in Daytona.”
When you’re a young Xfinity Series driver heading to Daytona, what do you want and need from your crew chief and spotter?
“That information falls on my shoulders. It’s not like this is a new program or that I’m helping to build this program. SHR’s Xfinity Series program is established and they won nine races last year. They have fast racecars. There’s obviously a distance between Chase Briscoe and me. Nobody is exactly the same. There’s some fine tuning there. The team’s going to stick with their platform that they know really well, and that’s been fast racecars. It’s on me to adapt to those racecars and, hopefully, we can do that sooner rather than later.”
What are your goals for 2021?
“My goals will be forever changing as the season goes on. I don’t want to set goals that are unachievable, but I also don’t want to set goals that are too low. I want to be a contender week in and week out. I definitely want to win some races this year, so we’ll see how the season plays out.”
What do you think your biggest challenge will be in 2021?
“Winning races, finishing the race, and putting all of the pieces together. Last year I showed glimpses of speed and we ran up front. I put myself in some good positions and then whether it was something I did or something out of my control, I was taken out of the position to contend for wins. I think that’s going to be my biggest challenge this year – putting it all together and continuing to learn.”
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