TOLEDO, Ohio (June 12, 2017) -- Despite his closest challengers and it being his first attempt on the "Tricky Triangle," Riley Herbst proved to be the driver to beat in Friday's General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 at Pocono Raceway. The Las Vegas, Nevada rookie not only dominated in the Valvoline Lap Leader category, leading 45 of 80 laps, he also put down the fastest lap of the race at nearly 169 mph en route to his career-first win in his sixth series start (he didn't run Daytona because he wasn't 18 yet). It was also a career-first win for Joe Gibbs Racing in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
Herbst is definitely on a roll over the last few events, finishing 8th at Talladega, 5th at Toledo, 3rd at Elko -- where he also earned his career-first General Tire Pole -- and now 1st at Pocono. Herbst became the 21st first-time winner and 32nd different winner over the last 47 events reaching back to Daytona 2015.
Herbst says he's been overwhelmed with congratulatory texts.
"I've had a lot of texts," said Herbst. "Everybody's been very happy…it's so cool to see all the texts from family and friends."
The win also served as a confidence booster going forward.
"It's definitely a confidence thing. The first one is the hardest to get. We're going to Michigan with the same mentality and put it in victory lane there."
Despite not running Daytona and missing out on the race points, Herbst has unofficially climbed to 3rd in overall championship standings. For those that may have counted him out of the championship hunt early on, we can assure you that Herbst has a different take.
"Oh we're coming for sure. If we keep our mindset we've had over the last few weeks and keep the momentum rolling, we'll be right back in the hunt."
Add the new race record (1:19:55) and it was a very productive day for Herbst and his No. 18 NOS Energy Drink-UFC Gym Toyota team.
Spotting for Herbst at Pocono was veteran NASCAR spotter Chris Lambert, who spots for Denny Hamlin on the Cup side.
Just one caution slowed the race for six laps. Of the 33 cars that started the race, just six were listed as 'Not Running' at the end. Despite the lack of cautions, the first 11 cars finished on the lead lap.
Jimmie Johnson Tweets
Seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson also thought it was pretty cool and tweeted, "So cool to see @rileyherbst get a W here in Pocono. #OffRoadRoots @ARCA_Racing."
Both Johnson and Herbst have 'off-road' roots in their racing backgrounds.
JGR crew chief Rursch lovin' life on the ARCA side
If the win was big for Herbst, it was equally so for his crew chief Shannon Rursch, who also earned his career-first ARCA win as a chief. He also secured the Cometic Crew Chief of the Race honors.
"That was pretty big, honestly…big for all the guys on this team moving forward," said Rursch. "All the hard work that goes into making fast race cars…this builds a lot of momentum. It's a big deal around here."
Rursch, like his driver, has the mindset that a national championship is definitely doable.
"Our goal is to win the driver and owner championship…that's been our mindset from the get-go. We started this team from scratch, and we put everything into it that we know. If we keep executing the way we are, we can overcome that."
The "overcome that" part is a reference to not being able to compete at Daytona. Despite Daytona, make no mistake, Rursch and his Coy Gibbs-owned team are coming full tilt.
"We put in the same amount of work on every single car that comes out of Joe Gibbs Racing, whether it's on the Cup side or the ARCA side. Joe Gibbs is champion coach, a champion NASCAR team owner…he's an incredible man who expects nothing less than our very best. This stuff doesn't happen by accident. I'm just blessed to be a part of this 18 team and be the guy who gets to crew chief this deal. A total team effort."
Rursch is also enjoying his first full season on the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards tour.
"I really enjoy the ARCA Series…it's a great mix of short tracks, superspeedways, dirt tracks and road courses. I enjoyed Toledo, Elko, Pocono…now we get to go to MIS next week. To be honest, I'd like to see two road courses on the schedule…maybe a Mid-Ohio or go back to New Jersey Motorsports Park. That would help justify building road course-specific cars. Right now, we'll just take a short track car and make it a road course car."
The win at Pocono was not Rursch's first affiliation with an ARCA win however; Rursch spotted for Justin Haley for his win on the Springfield Mile Dirt in 2016.
Brandon Jones, in the No. 8 Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup Chevrolet, improved his career-best Pocono finish with his runner-up run Friday. Jones, who finished 3rd in the ARCA race at Pocono in 2016, was atop the leader board in the open test Wednesday and again Friday morning in practice, but fell short by nearly two seconds to Herbst in the closing laps. Jones is entered in the same car for this Friday's Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan Int'l Speedway. Jones is the defending Michigan winner.
Self overcomes adversity for podium finish
Michael Self tied his career-best ARCA finish, coming home third in Friday's race at Pocono. But given his circumstance, his podium finish felt more like a win.
"I see it as a win…it was an awesome day," said Self.
Self and his Mason Mitchell Motorsports team had several obstacles to overcome to get to 3rd in the finishing order. As it turned out, Self only got three laps of practice due to an engine change Friday morning/afternoon. There's more.
"We did get to run the test Wednesday, but with the weather even that was limited. We were trying to get our car figured out…we weren't where we wanted to be. We made some huge swings set-up-wise on the car before practice Friday. We were looking to improve on those changes but that all got cut short. I had no idea where the car was when we started the race but the Mason Mitchell Motorsports guys just nailed it. We drove up into the top-5 before the pit stops started."
Then, the next issue.
"We cut a left-front tire on lap 17."
The next issue.
"Then the car ended up falling off the jack and we came out 21st, so we had to drive it up through there again. Had a great stop on the next one and the guys gave me the chance to go for the win but on our last run we got really aero-tight that kept us from the win. If we would have been up front in clean air, we were going to win the race."
Self left for Colorado Saturday morning where he competed in a NASCAR K&N West race Saturday night. Self was running 4th when he got spun, restarting 14th and coming up to 8th at the checkered flag. Self, with marketing partner Sinclair Lubricants, will be competing in three more ARCA races this year at Iowa, Lucas Oil and the Kansas finale where he finished 3rd last year.
"We're running three more for sure...returning with Mason Mitchell Motorsports at Iowa, and back with MDM at Lucas Oil and Kansas."
Venturini Motorsports Zane Smith gave himself a 4th-place finish on his 18th birthday at Pocono, tying his career-best mark of 4th at Toledo.
Following Ty Majeski's 7th-place finish in his Pocono debut, the Seymour, Wisconsin driver took off for Marshfield, Wisconsin where he competed in a 100-lap ARCA Midwest Tour (AMT) late model event. Majeski not only won the race but tied Dan Fredrickson in the all-time AMT win mark, each with 16 victories.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards is headed back to Michigan Int’l Speedway for the 36th running of the Corrigan Oil 200 Friday, June 16. The Corrigan Oil 200, live on FS1, serves as the weekend show-opener for the Sunday afternoon grand finale – the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400.
Located in the Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Michigan, the renowned two-mile superspeedway is about an hour away from ARCA’s Temperance, Michigan-based home office, and has long been considered the tour’s hometown superspeedway. The ARCA sanction, in its 65th consecutive season, is well known and established in the area.
ARCA’s relationship with Michigan reaches back to 1980 when Joe Ruttman won the inaugural ARCA race event from the pole. Other former Michigan ARCA winners over the decades include Bob Keselowski, Jeff Purvis, Tim Steele, Frank Kimmel, Kerry Earnhardt, Casey Mears, Reed Sorenson, Steve Wallace, Parker Kligerman, Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher and Ross Kenseth to name a few. There hasn’t been a repeat ARCA winner at Michigan since Steele pulled off the feat in 1996 and 1997.
The on-track action begins Thursday, June 15 with practice from 1 - 3 p.m. General Tire Pole Qualifying starts at 1:40 p.m. Friday afternoon. The Corrigan Oil 200 is scheduled to get underway Friday at 6 with live coverage on FS1. ARCAracing.com will provide live timing, scoring and chat.