LONG POND, Pa. — After losing the ARCA Racing Series event at Talladega Superspeedway in May on the final restart, Riley Herbst stressed that he wanted a chance at redemption.
Friday afternoon, the 18-year-old Las Vegas native not only got that chance, he seized it by the horns and converted it into his first-career win.
Herbst led the final 44 laps of the General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200, using a two-stop strategy that was aided by a timely caution to hoist the trophy in Richard Petty Victory Lane.
In the process, Herbst wrote a page of ARCA history, winning the fastest-ever ARCA race at Pocono. The 200-mile distance was completed in one hour, 19 minutes and 54 seconds, at an average speed of 150.188 mph.
“Talk about a long time coming for this team,” an elated Herbst said in victory lane. “Wow. We built this brand new team from the ground up … and I cant thank everyone involved enough. This is great. The General Tires on this Toyota were hooked up all race long and we made it happen.”
Herbst went 40 laps on his final tank of fuel, pushing the window to its limit in reaching the checkered flag first.
“I was praying for the white flag on lap four … I kept asking, ‘When is this thing coming out?’ It finally came out there at the end and we got it done. My crew chief made a great call on fuel … and we’re gonna go to Michigan now and try to park it in victory lane again!”
Polesittter Brandon Jones got a huge shove from behind by Herbst on the initial start, using the momentum to lead off the green flag as outside polesitter Kyle Weatherman dropped to fourth early on.
However, a two-stop gamble by Jones sparked a myriad of early pit stops, seeing Herbst and Michael Self lead laps during the exchange before Self lost a left front tire on his Mason Mitchell Motorsports entry.
The issue for Self handed the top spot to Codie Rohrbaugh, and then Dalton Sargeant, who was working a one-stop strategy in an effort to overcome a crash in the aborted qualifying session earlier in the day.
That effort was aided on lap 31, when Jones suffered a flat left-front tire and was forced into an unscheduled pit stop outside of the fuel window, seeming to doom the hopes of the race’s fastest car in the first half.
As Jones fell, Herbst rose, sitting on a similar two-stop strategy to what Jones was trying to use before his issues. Herbst assumed the point when Sargeant pitted on lap 37, and then moments later, the first caution flag of the race flew when Dan Bainey stalled on-track.
The yellow allowed Herbst, Theriault and the remainder of the frontrunners to pit for the final time, setting up the second half of the race and a final restart.
With the caution negating Jones’ disadvantage, racing resumed with 36 to go and saw Herbst get away for good, gapping Jones by over a second by lap 50 and holding a consistent second-and-a-half margin throughout the final 30 circuits.
Jones stayed with Herbst through the start of the run, but slowly faded and ended up 1.735 seconds back of Herbst at the checkered flag.
“I think today shows how good our Anderson’s Maple Syrup car really was, that we had the tire issue and still ended up second,” Jones admitted. “I feel like we should be in victory lane, but that’s my luck here lately. We had a really good car; the guys put together a great piece … and we’ve got Michigan to come, so hopefully we can end up one spot better there.”
Self rallied from the tail of the field to post a third-place finish, followed by Zane Smith and Gus Dean.
Sargeant took his backup car to sixth, with Ty Majeski, Sheldon Creed, Austin Theriault and Vinnie Miller rounding out the top 10.
The ARCA Racing Series returns to action on June 16 at Michigan Int’l Speedway, where Jones is the defending race winner.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…