LONG POND, Pa. (June 9, 2017) — According to Riley Herbst, it was “a long time coming.” In reality, it took just six races for the 18-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada rookie to find his way to Victory Lane. Herbst, in the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink-UFC Gym Toyota, took the lead on lap 37 of the 80-lap race and never gave it up, coming home the winner of the General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 Friday afternoon at Pocono Raceway.
Herbst beat second-place finisher Brandon Jones to the final stripe by nearly two seconds to earn his career-first ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards victory, and the first for Joe Gibbs Racing on the ARCA side.
“Talk about a long time coming for this team,” said Herbst. “Just a big thanks to Joe Gibbs Racing for this opportunity, my parents, grandparents…this is just awesome.”
Herbst also set a new ARCA race record for Pocono, finishing the race in 1 hour, 19 minutes and 55 seconds. The new mark surpassed the old mark of 1:25:29 set by Scott Riggs back in 2004.
“Right when I hopped in the 18 car I knew we were fast. Pit stops were great all day…I never would have believed this.”
It probably didn’t hurt that Herbst had a veteran spotter perched above.
“Chris Lambert is Denny Hamlin’s spotter. He’s the best…I couldn’t ask for anything more.
“I’m so proud of these guys. They built this team from the ground up. My guys have been working endless hours. I believe in them and I know they believe in me. They act like this ARCA team is their fourth Cup team…this is just the beginning for this 18 team.”
Jones, in the No. 8 Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup Chevrolet, got to within five lengths of Herbst late in the going, but fell back in the closing laps.
“It’s disappointing how it ended,” said Jones. “I felt like we had a car that was dominate and could win the race.”
Jones reference to being “dominate” included the open test Wednesday and the practice session Friday morning in which the Atlanta, Georgia driver was fastest in both. However Jones cut a tire during the race and played catch-up from there.
“I must have ran over something and cut the tire, but I think we showed how good our car was today. This is a brand new car…Mardy Lindley put together a really good car. The General Tires performed great all week. We’ll go get ‘em at Michigan next week.”
Michael Self finished third in the No. 28 Sinclair Lubricants Chevrolet, a car out of the Mason Mitchell Motorsports shop.
“We got a little bit too tight from the center off, but the Sinclair No. 28 car battled through a lot of adversity and came back hard. We ran the last 40 laps as hard as we could…I just got too tight behind the 8 car. Mason’s cars prove week in and week out that they’re capable of winning anywhere. I love the General Tires you guys come with. You can rely on them…it gives the driver the confidence you need to lean on it as hard as you want, as long as you…don’t ever change. Love running the ARCA Racing Series.”
Jones, from the pole position, led the first 15 laps before Herbst took control on the 16th circuit. Herbst gave it up to Self who led the next two laps before Codie Rohrbaugh cycled up through as the leader from laps 19 through 21. Dalton Sargeant took a turn up front, leading laps 22 through 36 before Herbst took control for good on the 37th lap. Herbst pitted for the second time on lap 40 for four tires and gas and never looked back.
Zane Smith had a great run, finishing fourth in the No. 55 Musselman’s-Icon Vehicle Dynamics Toyota on his 18th birthday. Gus Dean, in the No. 32 GREE Cooling Products Toyota, was fifth. Sargeant finished sixth, Ty Majeski seventh, Sheldon Creed eighth, championship points leader Austin Theriault ninth and Vinnie Miller 10th.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards heads to Michigan Int’l Speedway next for the Corrigan Oil 200 next Friday, June 16. The race is live at FS1 at 6 p.m. Eastern.
By: Don Radebaugh