Joe Gibbs Racing’s Riley Herbst gets lessons from a legend for ARCA dirt track debut on Springfield Mile
TOLEDO, Ohio — If you’re going to seek advice, you might as well go see the experts. That’s what Joe Gibbs Racing’s Riley Herbst did the day after the Winchester ARCA 200. The 18-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada SCOTT Rookie of the Year contender shook off his disappointing day at Winchester Sunday with a little “play in the clay” stress-reliever Monday. Herbst traveled to Dresden, Ohio to visit with dirt late model legend Donnie Moran who offered up his 4/10ths-mile dirt track behind the shop. Herbst spent much of the day slinging mud over the cushion in a street stock in preparation for his ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards dirt track debut at the Illinois State Fairgrounds mile dirt in Springfield, coming Sunday, Aug. 20.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Herbst. “I loved it…it was dirty and dusty for sure.” Herbst also noted that the street stock he practiced in matched up nicely with the ARCA cars, especially in some key categories. “They’re actually very similar. The dirt street stock was 3100-lbs, compared to the ARCA car which is 3300. The street stock also had a narrow tire on it like we’ll be racing at Springfield. We were playing around on the cushion, but we did practice on the bottom, like we’ll be at Springfield. I think it helped a lot.”
Bill France 4 Crown championship at stake. There’s plenty at stake for Herbst on the famous Springfield Mile Dirt as he currently holds the lead in the prestigious Bill France 4 Crown championship, leading by 35 points over national championship leader Austin Theriault. And there’s that other thing…Herbst has never raced an ARCA car on a dirt track, but neither has Theriault.
The Bill France 4 Crown, a championship within the overall national championship, consists of four diverse and different tracks each season. This year’s Bill France 4 Crown includes the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville short-track, Pocono Raceway (2.5 mile superspeedway), Illinois State Fairgrounds mile dirt and the Road America road course. Herbst won at Pocono and finished seventh at Nashville, giving him the advantage headed to Springfield. “The Bill France 4 Crown is a very honorable championship,” Herbst continued. “It’s a very prestigious award deep in history and significance. It’s very cool but we gotta get through the dirt first.”
In addition to gaining some valuable dirt track experience, Herbst got to hang out with Moran, who gained considerable fame after winning the Eldora Million dirt late model 100-lap race at Eldora Speedway in 2001.
“That was actually the coolest part…getting to hang out with Donnie Moran and his son for the day. We got to tour his shop, see the million dollar car and the million dollar check.” Herbst also sponged off Moran’s extensive knowledge and dirt track experience.
“He definitely helped me out on how to race on dirt, how to find the grip. He’s a legend…I was like a sponge, taking in all I can absorb.”
But, at the end of any day, and no matter how much advice Herbst gets from now until then, the best teacher will be 100 laps on the Springfield Mile Dirt. It sounds like Herbst is coming with a more realistic approach.
“I’m not too sure about the dirt…never done it. Yeah I’m a little timid…rather have another shot at Winchester. We had fresher tires than anyone else toward the end. If the trackbar mount didn’t break, we had a shot at the win.”
Herbst’s next shot at a win will be the Herr’s Potato Chips 100 on the Springfield Mile Dirt Sunday afternoon, Aug. 20, the third leg of the Bill France 4 Crown. The 2017 Bill France 4 Crown champion will be determined at Road America
Sunday Aug. 27, and officially crowned during the year-end championship awards banquet in December.
Davey Allison was the inaugural Bill France 4 Crown champion in 1984. Bill France 4 Crown champions over the years include Bobby Bowsher, Bob Keselowski, Tim Steele, Frank Kimmel, Jason Jarrett, Parker Kligerman, Chris Buescher, Grant Enfinger and Chase Briscoe, among many others. Kimmel is the all-time France 4 Crown champ with seven titles.
The Herr’s Potato Chips 100 will be the opening act for the Illinois State Fair’s final day Sunday, August 20. The day will start early, with practice at 9 a.m. and General Tire Pole Qualifying at 11. The Herr’s Potato Chips 100 is set to go green at 1:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon. The Herr’s Potato Chips 100 is Live on MAVTV, with Live Timing, Scoring and Chat at arcaracing.com.
Race fans will have the opportunity to “Save Big Money” on tickets to the Herr’s sponsored event at several Menards Stores across Illinois through Saturday, Aug. 19.
Closing out the 2017 Illinois State Fair Sunday will be Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp. Fans will need to purchase separate tickets for the Mellencamp concert.