The first family of Las Vegas desert off-road racing is branching off onto pavement.
Riley Herbst, whose grandfather Jerry, uncles Ed and Tim, and father Troy were inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame in 2014 as a family unit for the way they tore around the dust in their buggies and trucks and frightened desert tortoises half to death, has signed to drive in the ARCA Racing Series for Joe Gibbs Racing.
It’s a wonderful opportunity for the 17-year-old speedster, because Joe Gibbs Racing is about as big as it gets in NASCAR.
“He’s been working really hard,” Troy Herbst said of his teenage son. “We wanted him to stay in the desert and learn, but this (stock car racing) is something he’s wanted his whole life.”
Riley Herbst starting racing karts at age 5 before moving up to legends cars, speed trucks and late model stock cars. He drove for Bill McAnally in the K&N Pro Series in 2016, partnering series champ Todd Gilliland. Herbst posted seven top-five finishes in 17 starts, showing potential that put him on the radar of top NASCAR teams.
“It’s great to have Riley join Joe Gibbs Racing,” JGR executive vice president Steve deSouza said in a statement. “He has experienced success in a variety of racing venues, and we want to provide him the opportunity to continue that success at this level of competition.”
The top speed for an ARCA car at Daytona International Speedway is 188.478 mph; Ty Dillon’s pole-winning speed for last year’s Xfinity Series race there was 181.844. So it’s not as if young Herbst will be running with training wheels as he attempts to ascend the stock car racing ladder.
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“I grew up watching my dad compete in races like the Baja 500, so I’ve always wanted to be a racer myself,” Riley Herbst said after the ARCA deal was announced.
“I’m so appreciative of Bill McAnally and his entire racing crew. They were an instrumental part of my career. Having the opportunity to join Joe Gibbs Racing will take me to the next level.”
Herbst won’t be allowed to drive in the ARCA race at Daytona in February because he won’t turn 18 until after the race. His father said Riley would practice on the big oval before making his ARCA debut in April at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee.
“He’ll be training, learning, everything under the Joe Gibbs roof,” Troy Herbst said about the opportunity and his son’s timetable for moving up the ladder.
“Riley’s going to have doors opened for him. We’ll see how he’s going to do.”
LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
• Next week’s NASCAR Goodyear tire test will attract the usual quartet of household names. Matt Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series champion, will be joined by 2016 series runner-up Joey Logano, 2016 Rookie of the Year Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray for hot laps and briefing sections with engineers on Tuesday and Wednesday. The test, as usual, will be closed to the public.
• Noah Gragson, the 18-year-old phenom who will drive one of three entries for fellow Las Vegan Kyle Busch in this year’s Truck Series, has been assigned to head mechanic Marcus Richmond, as Kyle Busch Motorsports has made its 2017 crew chief lineup final. Gragson, named to the 2016 NASCAR Next list of up-and-coming drivers, is replacing William Byron, who won a series record seven times during 2016 and will drive for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series this season.
• Las Vegas brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch will represent NASCAR in the star-studded Race of Champions on Jan. 21 and 22 at Marlins Park in Miami. Other big names expected to compete in the exhibition inspired by the old International Race of Champions series include former Indy 500 champions Alexander Rossi, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Hunter-Reay; Formula 1 stalwarts Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa; Le Mans sports car ace Tom Kristensen; and rally specialists Petter Solberg, Travis Pastrana and Scott Speed.
Contact Ron Kantowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.