NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview

  • Event: Tennessee Lottery 250 (Round 17 of 33)
  • Date: Saturday, June 29
  • Location: Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway
  • Layout: 1.333-mile, concrete oval
  • Time/TV/Radio: 5 p.m. EDT on USA/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Cole Custer Notes of Interest

  • The last time Cole Custer visited Nashville, he was celebrating his 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series title during the annual NASCAR Champion’s Week celebration in December. This weekend, he returns to the Country Music Capital of the World as the Xfinity Series points leader looking for his first win of the 2024 season in Saturday’s Tennessee Lottery 250 at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. With 13 top-10 finishes this season, including each of the last four races, Custer is showing signs he’s closing in on that elusive victory. In last Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speeday in Loudon, Custer was the driver to beat. He started from the pole after Friday qualifying was cancelled due to weather. Then, starting Saturday’s race on wet-weather tires, he led the field five times for a race-high 114 laps, his first laps led at New Hampshire in the Xfinity Series. In the closing laps, Custer was in the lead by a more than two-second margin over second-place Christopher Bell before the race’s final caution that closed up the field. In the previous 50 laps, Custer managed to hold onto the lead through four restarts, but on the fifth and final one, Bell was able to get around Custer, going three-wide with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sheldon Creed. Custer fought valiantly before ultimately finishing third.
  • This Saturday’s Tennessee Lottery 250 will mark Custer’s second Xfinity Series start at Nashville. In his first start last June, he earned a ninth-place finish after qualifying on the pole. He has two starts outside of the Xfinity Series at the 1.333-mile, concrete oval, both coming in the NASCAR Cup Series in June of 2021 and 2022, which resulted in finishes of 30th and 26th, respectively.
  • Nashville proved to be kind to Custer in the series’ most recent race last June. The native of Ladera Ranch, California appeared to be on his way to his second victory of the season after scoring his third pole of the season. He led the opening 13 laps and finished second in each of the opening two stages. He went on to lead three more times for a total of 32 laps. In the final stage, he was racing for the lead with A.J. Allmendinger when he dropped back to ninth as a result of pit strategy and late-race restarts that did not go his way.
  • Win and you’re in. That’s the mentality when it comes to racing for a coveted spot in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. With 10 races left before the playoffs kick off Sept. 28 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Custer is sitting in a solid spot to make the 12-driver postseason field. As the regular-season driver championship leader with a 15-point lead over second-place Chandler Smith and a 205-point advantage over the top-12 playoff cutline, the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion is confident he can point his way into the playoffs. Still, the driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang Dark Horse would not only like to secure his spot with a race win, but also earn the regular-season championship that not only comes with a trophy but an additional 15 playoff points.

Riley Herbst Notes of Interest

  • Riley Herbst has his eyes set on Music City as he heads to Saturday’s Tennessee Lottery 250 at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. As a native of Las Vegas, Herbst should feel right at home in Nashville. The capital of Tennessee may be best known as Music City, but its bright lights and lively nightlife have earned it another nickname – “Nashvegas.” The fact that Nashville’s 1.333-mile, concrete oval is an intermediate-style track makes Herbst feel even more at home. His history at intermediates is strong. His first career Xfinity Series victory came on the 1.5-mile oval of his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway last October, and prior to that his best career Xfinity Series results came at intermediates – a pair of second-place finishes, in February 2020 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and July 2020 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. He’s since added runner-up finishes in June 2023 at Nashville, October 2023 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, this past April 20 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, and two weekends ago at Iowa Speedway in Newton. The driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang Dark Horse heads to Nashville riding the momentum of his runner-up finish at Iowa, followed by last weekend’s hard-fought eighth-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, where he started fourth, finished third in the opening stage, then showed his perseverance in the final stage by fighting his way back into the top-10 after pit road issues dropped him back in the field. It was his third top-10 in the last four races.
  • Saturday’s Tennessee Lottery 250 will mark Herbst’s fourth race at Nashville, having finished inside the top-10 in his previous three starts. Herbst’s best finish at the track came last year, when he started fifth for the scheduled 188-lap race and finished second, just 1.323 seconds behind race-winner A.J. Allmendinger. During the 2022 race at the track located some 40 minutes east of downtown Nashville, Herbst won his second career pole and finished third behind race-winner Justin Allgaier and runner-up Trevor Bayne. In his first start at the track in June 2021, he rallied for a solid top-10 finish from the 20th starting position.
  • Not only will Herbst race on Saturday, he’ll also hop behind the wheel of the No. 15 Monster Energy Zero Sugar Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Rick Ware Racing in Sunday’s Ally 400 at Nashville. It will mark his third Cup Series start of 2024 and his seventh overall. He’s earned two top-10s in seven starts – a career-best of ninth last October at the 2.66-mile, behemoth Talladega oval, and 10th in his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the 2023 Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. He became just the fourth driver to score a top-10 in all three of his NASCAR national series debuts. While five of his prior Cup Series starts have come on superspeedway-style tracks, he made his first start on an intermediate on May 5 with Rick Ware Racing at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, where he finished 35th.
  • Monday marked one year since Herbst began working with crew chief Davin Restivo, who first climbed atop the pit box for the No. 98 team last June at Nashville. Herbst had been working with Richard Boswell as his crew chief since his arrival at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2021, while Restivo was an engineer for the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Cup Series team and the crew chief for Aric Almirola’s June 2023 Xfinity Series win at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, just two weeks prior to moving to the No. 98 team. In their first weekend together, Herbst and Restivo collaborated on the second-place finish at Nashville. While bad luck found them in the following weeks, they made steady progress and ultimately earned Herbst’s first career Xfinity Series win in October at Las Vegas. Though not part of the 2023 Xfinity Series playoff field, the No. 98 team earned more points than any other team during the Round of 8.

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang Dark Horse

Last year at Nashville, you were strong out of the gate by being fast in practice and winning the pole. You’ve shown speed this year and already have won two poles this season, not including your front row starts from rained out qualifying session. What are your expectations for this weekend?

“I think we’ll be fast. This track is one that has a lot of speed in it and I hope we can capitalize on it. While I only have one start there in the Xfinity Series, we had a strong run last season. We probably could’ve gone for the win had our pit strategy not been off, but it’s just one of those instances where we have to put a perfect race together in order to find victory lane. We’ve been so close. Riley (Herbst, teammate) did well there in his prior three starts, so I’m definitely going to be leaning on him, still. I think the Stewart-Haas Racing Xfinity Series program will have a good run at Nashville as long as we can stay out of trouble. This program has won two poles in the three races run there, so we’re not lacking in speed. Hopefully we can put it all together on Saturday.”

You’re sitting in a good place to make the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs with the points lead over Chandler Smith and sitting 205 points to the good of the cutline with 10 regular-season races to go. How much pressure would it take off to get a win this weekend in Nashville?

“It would take a lot of the pressure off. Right now, we’re focused on winning, but points racing is always in the back of your mind. You can’t just forget about it, because you don’t want to point your way out of the playoffs, either. Ultimately, a win would put everything to rest and put some ease in our minds. We could race for more race wins and stage wins at that point. We have to balance it all at this point, though. In a perfect scenario, we would’ve won by now, but that’s not the reality. I’m confident that this team can get it done again, though. Hopefully we can do it this weekend at Nashville.”

Riley Herbst, Driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang Dark Horse

You should feel right at home in “Nashvegas” this weekend after growing up under the neon lights of Las Vegas. How excited are you to get back to Nashville Superspeedway after finishing second last year and third the previous year?

“I’m pumped to head back to Nashville again. The city itself is so much fun, but so is the racing at the superspeedway. I don’t know how to describe it, but the track works with my style of racing. This is a race that I had circled on the calendar for this summer after three very strong years at Nashville. That first year we ended up 10th, then in 2022 we finished third, and last year we were second. We keep trending upwards at Nashville, and hopefully that proves to continue to be true this weekend. A win there would be so cool, especially with the double-duty weekend. It can be a difficult track, for sure, due to how slick it can get in the summer heat, but you just have to put together a great race and be there at the end. No mistakes, fast pit stops, and speed in the racecar. Hopefully, we can see all of that this weekend.”

This weekend will mark your third start of the 2024 season in the NASCAR Cup Series. How do these select starts not only help you in the Xfinity Series, but also help you in furthering your career and experience?

“Honestly, the cars are so different now that you can’t really carry anything over between the two series, other than just getting more seat time. Back in the day, it used to help a lot because the cars were similar, minus the higher horsepower in the Cup Series. Now with the NextGen cars, it’s just a lot different. The cars are nowhere near the same. Still, these are not only chances for me to learn a track but to showcase what I could do in those cars. Kansas didn’t go how we wanted, but it was also a good chance for me to learn how to drive a NextGen car on something other than a superspeedway. It was a new challenge for me, and honestly as the race went on, I was able to show more speed. By that point, though, we were already a couple of laps down, so the results didn’t show. My dream is to race on Sundays, so I’m thankful to Rick Ware Racing and Monster Energy for a chance to get these select starts this season to continue to develop and learn the NextGen car.”