Add Riley Herbst to the list of Las Vegas racing legends who have a victory at their home track.

The Sin City native joined Kurt and Kyle Busch and Brendan Gaughan on the exclusive roster of local national series winners at LVMS as the 24-year-old dominated Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 302 NASCAR Xfinity Series race for his first career Xfinity Series victory.

“I love this town and I love this team,” said an emotional Herbst near the start-finish line following a massive burnout. “Everyone said I couldn’t do it. You have no idea what this means and takes off my chest. I love Las Vegas!”

Herbst, driving the No. 98 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing, led 103 of the race’s 201 laps around the 1.5-mile tri-oval in his 139th career start. Herbst’s 14.959-second margin of victory over John Hunter Nemechek demolished the old track record mark margin of 8.428 seconds set in 2002 when Jeff Burton topped Michael Waltrip.

The Alsco Uniforms 302 was the opening race in the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs. While Herbst didn’t make the original field of 12 playoff contenders this year, his team was always encouraging him with positive thoughts as he made his way from track to track to close out the season.

“This year was such a failure because we didn’t make the playoffs with a car like this,” said Herbst, who notched the 100th win for Stewart-Haas Racing in front of about 60 friends and family members. “Everyone told me to keep my head up, saying ‘Let’s go get a win.’

“I can’t fathom it. This is my home - I was born and raised here. We’re going to celebrate on the Strip.”

Herbst won Stage 2 and slowly increased his gap between the second-place driver throughout the final stretch, which included executing a green-flag pit stop.

Nemechek, who started 38th after failing to make a qualifying run on Friday, climbed up to the runner-up spot, followed by fellow playoff contenders Cole Custer (62 laps led, Stage 1 winner) in third, Chandler Smith (23 laps led) in fourth and Sam Mayer in fifth. Nemechek retained the Xfinity Series points lead, with a 47-point margin over the cutline with two races remaining in the Round of 8.

“Congrats to Riley,” Nemechek said. “I know he’s been trying to win one of these for a long time. We got up front and battled in the top five. We got stage points. We just kind of missed the balance a little bit. It was a solid points day - we just have to keep on with it.”

Among other playoff contenders, Justin Allgaier finished sixth, Austin Hill placed seventh, Sheldon Creed was 15th and Sammy Smith was 17th.

“I’m really disappointed,” Allgaier said. “We got behind in the beginning. Hats off to Riley. That was a demonstration right there.”

Herbst averaged 130.598 mph around LVMS, completing the 201 laps in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 31 seconds. Five caution periods took up 26 laps, with 10 drivers finishing on the lead lap and six drivers exchanging the lead 11 times.


NASCAR Cup Series championship contender Christopher Bell scored the pole for Sunday’s South Point 400 NASCAR Cup Series race on Saturday with a lap of 186.335 mph (28.98 seconds) in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

It’s the series-leading sixth pole of the season and 10th overall for the 28-year-old Oklahoma native, as well as his second top starting spot at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Qualifying has been so much fun since the introduction of the Next-Gen car at the intermediate tracks,” Bell said. “It’s right on the edge and that’s what I live for.”

The South Point 400 NASCAR Cup Series race (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time, NBC, PRN, Sirius XM) is the opening race of the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

“We need to go out there and try to win the race,” said Bell, who sits eight points below the cutline and is sixth in the standings. “Running eighth, tenth, having just a good points day is not going to get you [to the Championship 4]. If you make a mistake, you’re pretty much done.”

Championship contenders make up the entire top-5 starting spots, with Kyle Larson in second, points leader William Byron in third, Martin Truex Jr. in fourth and Chris Buescher in fifth. Las Vegas native Kyle Busch will start sixth.

Chase Elliott and Daniel Suarez each spun out during practice and failed to make a qualifying lap. They will start 35th and 36th, respectively.

Las Vegas native Kurt Busch holds the Cup Series qualifying record at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a lap of 196.328 mph (27.505 seconds) turned in 2016.