Nine races into the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series season, Scott Riggs had already recorded two ins and one pole and sat third in the point standings, all as a rookie. However, with two races remaining in the season, Riggs lost his veteran crew chief and finished the season a disappointing 10th place in the points. With a new crew chief in Doug Randolph and a full season under his belt, Riggs expects to avoid the sophomore slump in 2003 and contend for the championship.
SCOTT RIGGS-10-Nestle Nesquik Ford Taurus:
EXCEPT FOR THE ADDITION OF DOUG RANDOLPH AS CREW CHIEF, THIS TEAM HAS REMAINED INTACT. "That's it. All of the guys stayed and I was pretty happy with that. All of these guys have been working together for many years and I've had a chance to work with them all year, and to be able to come back with the same group of guys with a winning attitude can only help our cause. We've got a new crew chief in Doug Randolph, who has a lot of new ideas, and I think everyone is taking to him very well including myself, so it's going to be a good year."
YOUR TEAM SEEMED TO LOSE A LOT OF MOMENTUM MIDWAY THROUGH THE SEASON LAST YEAR. WHAT HAPPENED? "I think I lost not only a lot of momentum, but we lost a focus and chemistry as well the last half of last year. I feel like I need to go back and sorta redeem myself and prove myself all over again. We need to keep the same consistent level of performance that we started last year with and try to hold that same focus all the way through the entire year this year."
DID YOU FEEL THAT YOU HAD TO TAKE STEP BACK AT THE END OF THE SEASON TO FIGURE OUT WHAT WENT WRONG? "I took steps back last year and tried to keep my focus on what my job was and that was just driving a race car the best I could and giving the best feedback that I could. We just couldn't quite get our chemistry back together, but I think that with Doug here, I think that the chemistry, the hunger and the focus is back in place. We knew that it was still there because these are the same guys that have been here for years, but we just needed to re-focus our efforts. We just need to keep it through the whole year and I think we will be able to show off a championship-caliber year, and that's what this team is used to anyway."
HAVING A NEW CREW CHIEF THIS SEASON, ARE YOU ABLE TO WORK ON COMMUNICATION AT A TEST LIKE THIS? "I don't think Daytona is a place that you can work on a lot of communication. You can only give feedback on how the car is driving and how it feels different. As far as overall speed or how much faster you can go, there's not a lot a driver can do. The more laps you get around here practicing, though, the more you learn about the race track - where the bumps and the humps are and where you need to be smooth with the car and how to position the car on the race track. You learn those things testing here, but as far as helping the team jell, I think they jell by working on the race cars like they do here at the race track and at the shop. As far as myself, to get good feedback from me, I think you need to go somewhere that's a little more driver oriented."
WITH YOUR EARLY-SEASON SUCCESS LAST YEAR, DO YOU THINK PEOPLE FORGOT YOU WERE STILL A ROOKIE? "If they did, that's a good thing for the team and a good thing for me, overlooking the fact that last year was my rookie year. I think from what they did see last year, they're going to see a more mature and knowledgeable team and driver this year. I think we'll open everyone's eyes again because I feel like we're one of the teams to beat on a weekly basis."
YOUR BACKUP CAR HERE STILL HAS THE PAINT AND DECALS ON IT FROM LAST YEAR. DID YOU HAVE TO MAKE ANY CHANGES TO IT BETWEEN LAST YEAR AND THIS YEAR? "We did make a few changes to our backup car but they were changes that weren't major, and instead of priming it and having to paint it all over, we just repaired it and shot some yellow paint back on it. The templates for the car haven't changed a whole lot; it's pretty close to the same because we already had the rules in terms of body location that Winston Cup is getting this year. Our primary car here for the test got crashed at the Daytona race here in June, so we've had to go back to rebuild it and we're still working on it to make it better."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO JUDGE WHERE YOU ARE IN TERMS OF YOUR COMPETITION WHEN YOU CAN TEST A CAR THAT DOESN'T FIT THE TEMPLATES? "You've got to stay in the realm of the templates, and if not, you're just fooling yourself. The cars are so finicky. These two cars that we have here are so alike and both fit the templates, but if you do something that makes a gain on one car and then you put it on the other, it doesn't always have the same effect. It's really trial and error and trying different things with each individual car and seeing which car likes what."
WITH TWO PERENNIAL CHAMPIONSHIP-CONTENDING TEAMS HOUSED UNDER ONE ROOF, HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO KEEP THE ONE TEAM, TWO-CAR MENTALLY? "It's easy. We have really good communication between Jason and myself, and between the 10 team and the 57 team. Anything that we find that works on my car we share with Jason and vice versa. The only way that ppc Racing is going to be happy at the end of the year is if the 57 and the 10 wind up first and second in points. We want to win the championship and I feel like we have the best opportunity this year than ever before. I have a lot higher confidence in myself and a lot more focus. I'm a lot more at ease having one year of experience under my belt and knowing what the challenges are that I will be faced with this year. As far as keeping a one team, two-car mentality, Greg Pollex is very good at keeping everybody open and honest and it only makes us better. If we try to pull something over on Jason or vice-versa, it would only create conflict and we would lose the good side of having two cars to learn twice as much information to put towards both teams."
THERE AREN'T MANY DRIVERS IN THE GARAGE THAT PLAN ON DOING ANY DRAFTING TODAY. IS THAT SURPRISING? "I'd like to do some drafting to see how the cars pull up, but then again, you don't know what the other guys have and how their cars are so it's hard to gauge yourself off of them. We'll probably end up waiting till Happy Hour when we come back in February to really get out there and draft and see what our car is really going to do in the draft."