NASCAR: Surprising driver confirmed for Daytona 500

Rick Ware Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Rick Ware Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

Riley Herbst is indeed set to join Rick Ware Racing for select races during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, including the Daytona 500.

One of the 36 cars locked into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, and every other race on the 36-race schedule, is the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford. Until this week, no drivers were confirmed to drive that car this year.

Rick Ware Racing have now announced that Riley Herbst, who competes full-time in the Xfinity Series for Stewart-Haas Racing and has never made a Cup Series start, is set to drive the No. 15 Ford in the season opener, along with every other superspeedway race on the 2023 calendar.

While Herbst himself may be seen as somewhat of a surprising selection for this seat, given his lack of Cup Series experience and the fact that he hasn’t performed all that well in his three-plus seasons in the Xfinity Series with top-tier organizations, this announcement was anticipated.

Ware had indicated that the plan was for Herbst to make his Cup Series debut in the Daytona 500 and run select races behind the wheel of the No. 15 Ford throughout the season, including all superspeedway races.

But though Herbst has never won an Xfinity Series race and has finished no higher than 10th place in the championship standings, despite competing for top-tier teams in Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing, the selection makes a lot of sense.

First of all, Herbst brings funding, and Ware’s commitment to continuing to run the No. 15 Ford as a rotational ride was an indicator that funding would be a key factor in determining who gets to drive the car on a weekly basis throughout the year.

Herbst has also performed quite well in superspeedway races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

He brings the car home in one piece a lot more than most drivers tend to. He owns four fourth place finishes in superspeedway races, including two at Daytona International Speedway.

A similar approach could net him a solid Daytona 500 result. While Rick Ware Racing generally don’t run at the front, the Daytona 500 is somewhat of an equalizer, given the nature of superspeedway racing.

David Ragan drove the No. 15 Ford in last year’s Daytona 500 and finished in eighth place, and he recorded a ninth place finish in the August race at Daytona International Speedway. He also competed for the team in the 2020 Daytona 500 and finished in fourth, his best result in 16 starts in the Great American Race.

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Daytona 500 qualifying is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, February 15, and the Bluegreen Vacations Duels are scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 16. Fox is set to broadcast the Daytona 500 live from Daytona International Speedway beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 19.