BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 15, 2004) - Russell Riggs will travel to Michigan International Speedway this weekend to watch his son -- Scott Riggs -- drive the Valvoline Chevrolet in Sunday's DHL 400. This will not be a special visit by Russell, nor...
BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 15, 2004) - Russell Riggs will travel to Michigan International Speedway this weekend to watch his son -- Scott Riggs -- drive the Valvoline Chevrolet in Sunday's DHL 400.
This will not be a special visit by Russell, nor will the fact that the race is being run on Father's Day make the weekend different from any other.
You see, Russell is his son's No. 1 fan. He has missed only one of Scott's races since he began competing in motocross in 1984, at the age of 13. Now, 20 years later, Russell travels to every NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event, to support, coach, and even criticize his son. And after this many years, and this many races, he knows when each of those things are required.
"I really don't know any different," said Scott of his dad's unwritten commitment to be by his side. "My dad has always been one of my strongest supporters. He's like a coach. I can go to him for encouragement, but I can also go to him for criticism and for ways that I can get better. And he tells me when he thinks there are ways to get better."
For example, in 1987, after three very successful years in motocross, including a third-place showing in that year's National AMA competition, Scott came home from school to find all four of his motorcycles gone.
"Sold," Riggs said. "He just sold them. He decided that motocross was too dangerous. I didn't want to hear it, so he just got rid of them."
Russell tells the story that Scott once knocked himself out when he fell off his motorcycle. He climbed back on the bike and went the wrong way.
"Enough was enough," said Russell, who is virtually never seen at a racetrack without Valvoline Racing apparel on. "Broken arms, thumbs, stitches. I wanted him in something with a roll cage, so I persuaded him to try stock cars."
A body shop owner in the Riggs' hometown of Bahama (ba-HAY-ma), N.C., Russell spent his time, and money, helping Scott reach his ultimate goal -- to race in NASCAR's elite series.
"You should've seen some of the cars I've raced," Scott said. "My dad and I would go out and work on these cars... these heaps of metal. We'd do what we could to them and then we'd take them to the track."
And they'd win.
His father by his side, Scott competed in NASCAR's Mini-stock Division, Late Model Stock Car Division, and the Slim Jim All-Pro Series before eventually earning a ride in the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks Series. He had five wins in his first full-season in truck competition and then moved to the NASCAR Busch Series where he was Rookie of the Year in 2002 and a contender for the championship in 2003.
This weekend, his father still by his side, Scott is looking for another solid finish in the Nextel Cup Series, after collecting a season-high fifth-place finish two weeks ago in Dover, and a 16th-place finish last week in his first trip to Pocono.
"Everyone in my family knows how hard I've worked to get to where I am," said Scott, "I think they're proud that I've been able to find success."
"I'm so proud of him," offered Russell. "He's living a dream... and so am I."
RIGGS' PRE-MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY QUOTES
"Michigan is a great track. It's wide and there are a lot of different racing grooves that you can choose from. You have to carry a lot of momentum through the corner. If a driver has to back off at all, it can be costly.
"You can count on some long green flag runs at Michigan. It puts pressure on you to be good at the start of the race, because you're not going to have many opportunities to make adjustments. Anytime you have long runs, it can be an issue. Not only do you worry about making adjustments, but fuel mileage always has to factor into your race strategy at Michigan."