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After Daytona top-10, Riley Herbst seeks first Xfinity win at his home track

It’s a question that likely will stump even the most fervent of auto racing fans:

Who is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in his rookie race in each of NASCAR’s five current disciplines (Cup, Xfinity, Truck, ARCA East and West Series)?

Dale Earnhardt? Jimmie Johnson? Tony Stewart?

No, nope, nada.

The answer is Riley Herbst of Las Vegas.

A surprising 10th-place finish in his maiden Cup Series voyage in the season-opening Daytona 500 kept the streak alive and provided NASCAR fans with a surefire way to win a wager over beers or their beverage of choice.

“Cool stat, but just a bar fact,” said Herbst, who will drive the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford in Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “It’s cool to be the only driver ever to do that, but I’d like to have some wins as well.”

Herbst, 24, has two second-place Xfinity Series finishes. He has been fast more often than not but has yet to visit victory lane in 109 starts in NASCAR’s top developmental series.

“I don’t really see it as frustrating because we have speed. It’s just a matter of putting it all together at the right time, the right race,” said the son of off-road racing star Troy Herbst, and nephew of desert aces Ed and Tim Herbst. Along with their father, Jerry, the brothers were inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame as a quartet in 2014.

Riley Herbst would like nothing better than to start building a Hall of Fame résumé of his own starting Saturday on his hometown track that hasn’t been kind to him.

He finished ninth in his first two Xfinity starts at LVMS but hasn’t had a top 10 since.

“If you keep knocking on the door, the door will open,” he said after posting sixth- and seventh-place finishes in the season’s first two races at Daytona and Auto Club Speedway in Southern California.

Especially if he can keep the nose of his car clean and steer clear of crashes.

The usually aggressive Herbst was mostly able to do that in his Daytona 500 debut, recovering from an early-race spin to go from 38th on the starting grid to 10th in a one-off drive for the second-tier Rick Ware Racing team.

“We were 19th when the pileup happened in Turn 2,” he said of the melee in the closing laps that knocked many of the pacesetters out of contention. “We picked our way through the carnage and ended up 10th, which is cool. Kind of surreal to be honest.”

But, he said, not as cool and surreal as a win or two would be this season as he attempts to break into the Cup Series full-time and achieve the status once predicted for him.

“It’ll mean everything, all the hard work everybody has put in, myself, my family, my team,” Herbst said, envisioning a long-awaited victory burnout and celebration. “It’s going to be pretty awesome.”

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