BOWMANVILLE, Ontario – Riley Herbst will tackle a new challenge this weekend, as he goes north of the border to make his NASCAR Pinty’s Series debut at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Herbst will pilot an entry out of the DJK Racing stable, learning the nuances of the 2.459-mile, 10-turn permanent road course under the guidance of team owner and former series champion D.J. Kennington.
The Toyota Racing Development driver will use his time behind the wheel of the No. 28 Monster Energy Drink Dodge – as Toyota does not currently compete in NASCAR’s Canadian championship – to gain track time before he returns with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series this fall.
“I’m running the Truck Series race in August and really wanted to get some real-world experience at the track, because I’ve never seen the place,” Herbst told SPEED SPORT. “Noah (Gragson) actually did the same thing last year, and it paid off pretty well for him until the last corner. He gave me D.J. Kennington’s number, I got ahold of D.J. and we were able to put this deal together.
“I’m actually running the same car that Noah did, which is really cool,” Herbst added. “Just excited to get out there, learn the track and understand what it takes to go fast around there.”
Sunday’s Pinty’s Series event will mark the seventh different division that Herbst has competed in so far this year, making for one of the most diverse schedules in motorsports, especially for a 20-year-old.
“I’ve run in a bunch of different series this year, between ARCA, the Truck Series, the Xfinity Series, K&N, late models and even Trans-Am, so I’m definitely getting used to hopping from car to car and having to adapt on the fly,” Herbst noted. “Anything with wheels on it, I want a chance to learn, to figure it out and to enhance my race craft. I’m a racer at heart, so every shot I get I’m going to take advantage of it.”
While Herbst grew up on the West Coast – not necessarily spoken of as a hotbed for road racing – he’s been busy growing his chops at the discipline this year, particularly by making his Trans-Am Series debut at Road Atlanta in April.
“Man, that Trans-Am race was awesome; it was so much fun,” recalled Herbst. “Everyone at Mike Cope Racing gave me a great race car to go learn, make mistakes and get better … and I think we did that. If you want to run up front in that series, you really have to be on your road-racing game, and I think by the end of it we were getting a lot closer to being at the level that we needed and wanted to be at.
“This weekend is just another great opportunity to pole-vault me forward and to make me better when it comes to road racing,” Herbst added. “I had a really big goal at the start of this year to improve on that front, and hopefully the races I’ve been doing have helped to make that goal a reality.”
Though he’s fiercely competitive anytime he gets behind the wheel, Herbst isn’t setting a dedicated goal for himself in Sunday’s race, knowing that the focus is on soaking up as much knowledge as he can.
“I just want to go there, earn some respect and have fun behind the wheel,” Herbst said. “There’s no pressure at all this weekend, really, which is kind of cool because my whole season has been a bit under a microscope so far.
“It’ll be good to go up to Canada, relax, have fun and prepare to come back in August.”