The Finish: Drew Herring raced to his first-career NASCAR Nationwide Series top-10 finish on Saturday night at Nashville Superspeedway in the Federated Auto Parts 300. Herring, who was making just his sixth-career Nationwide Series start and just his second for Joe Gibbs Racing, started 17th and fell a lap down early, but battled back and raced his way into the top-10, eventually finishing seventh in the No. 18 Sport Clips Toyota.
The Race Recap: Herring and the No. 18 Sport Clips Toyota struggled with an extremely tight condition in practice on Friday, forcing the team to make wholesale adjustments prior to qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Herring qualified 17th, but was confident the car was better for the 225-lap event Saturday evening. When the green flag flew, Herring fell into line and started logging laps. Herring radioed to the team the car was extremely loose and not handling well at all. A long green-flag run early, coupled with an ill-handling car, resulted in Herring falling back to 23rd position and one-lap down. Following a round of green-flag stops, the Joe Gibbs Racing team found the culprit of ill-handling car – a bad tire that was worn to the cords and extremely chunked. Following a caution, Herring was able to take the wave around and get back on the lead lap. After that, Herring started making his charge to the front. Herring raced a much-better handling No. 18 Sport Clips Toyota from 23rd into the top-10, eventually getting as high as sixth. Following a late-race caution, Herring restarted the No. 18 Toyota fifth with just a handful of laps to go. Unfortunately, Herring fell back to ninth on the start after getting loose and up into the marbles in turn one. However, he was able to race his way back up to seventh over the race’s final laps, crossing the line to earn his first career top-10 finish.
Drew’s Quotes: “I’m really pumped about the night we had with the Sport Clips Toyota. We got behind early with the handling and fell a lap down. But the guys never gave up and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) made some outstanding calls on the pit box and got the car handling better. Once we took the wave around and got back on the lead lap, we were one of the fastest cars on the track. We made little adjustments on each stop and kept getting the car better and better each time. Adam said we were one of the fastest cars on the track by the end of the race and it felt like it. The Sport Clips Toyota was just flying out there. On the long runs, there was no one better. This is exactly what we wanted to do tonight. We wanted to keep the car clean, finish on the lead lap and have a solid finish. This was a good points night for the No. 18. Hopefully, they can continue to lead the Owner’s standings and we can know that we had something to do with it at the end of the year.
“It’s really too bad we fell down a lap early in the race. The car just wasn’t handling right on that first run. The guys made big changes prior to qualifying and the car felt decent then, but once the race started, it just kept getting worse and worse. Come to find out, we had a bad tire that was down to the cords on the left rear. Once we got that changed, we were 100-percent better. The car came to life. Unfortunately, we had to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap, but once we did, we were as fast as anyone. We were picking cars off one at a time. The guys in the pits did a great job all night long. We never lost and spots and we even gained a couple on the last stop of the night which put us up to fifth.
“I just need to get better on restarts. That was my biggest problem tonight. I would lose too many spots on restarts. I think that just comes from my inexperience. That cost us, especially there at the end of the race. We restarted fifth, but I got really loose on the restart and fell all the way back to ninth or so. Once the pressures came up and we got in line, I was able to run back up to seventh. I wish we would have had more laps, because I think we could have gotten into the top-five at least. But either way, it was a great night for Sport Clips, JGR and the entire team. I can’t thank everyone enough for this opportunity. It’s great to work with the team and have as great of equipment as we do. In two races with JGR, I’ve been able to run up front and lead laps and I’ve had top-five cars both times. There really isn’t a better organization in the entire racing community. I’m looking forward to my next race with them. I can’t wait for next weekend to get here.”
What’s Next: Herring will be back behind the wheel of the No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota next weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. The No. 18 will also be in action with Michael McDowell driving.