‘Patience’ Leads Rookie Herbst to 2nd Place in Fontana

Photo by Nigel Kinrade Photography

By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

By the looks of Stages 1 and 2, Brandon Jones was going to be the lead dog for Joe Gibbs Racing Saturday at Auto Club Speedway. But when the checkered flag flew in the Xfinity Series Production Alliance Group 300, the story had a different look.

After pole-sitter Jones dropped out of contention with a flat tire, it was Harrison Burton and fellow rookie and JGR teammate Riley Herbst who rose to the occasion. The first-year duo ran 1-2 in the final 20+ laps, nearly crossing paths through lapped traffic in the final four laps.

Despite the closing pace, however, Burton had enough to edge Herbst for the victory. For Herbst, the second-place finish marked his best finish in his 13th Xfinity start, his first top five and sixth top 10.

“There are so many options for us as drivers [at Auto Club],” Herbst said. “Nowadays, with dirty air everyone complains, Harrison goes to the top, I can run middle… go anywhere he’s not and make up ground. It was a lot of fun.

“I had a really fast Monster Energy Supra. I think we needed a few more laps to get my teammate, but we were closing for sure.”

Though impressing most with Saturday’s performance, a win always sits best with the 21-year-old driver, who fills the No. 18 JGR Toyota full time in 2020.

“I didn’t qualify where I wanted to,” he said. “We kept working our way [up], had some bad lanes on restarts. We worked our way back to the front and I knew the No. 98 [Chase Briscoe] was going to get greedy and he did. We stayed patient and we had a shot at the end. I just needed a little more fire-off speed.”

After crashing out early in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, Herbst now has back-to-back top-10 finishes in 2020, leading him to the final leg of the West Coast Swing in Phoenix next weekend.

“Not today,” he said of winning. “Maybe we have to go beat up on the Cup guys in Phoenix with Brad [Keselowski] and Kyle [Busch]. We’ll get ready, head to Phoenix and see what happens.”

Herbst leaves California 16th in driver points.

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