This Week in Ford Racing February 19, 2002 NASCAR Busch Grand National Series Scott Riggs, a 31-year-old Bahama, N.C., native, capped an impressive start to his Busch Series career with a sixth-place performance in last weekend's season opener...
This Week in Ford Racing
February 19, 2002
NASCAR Busch Grand National Series
Scott Riggs, a 31-year-old Bahama, N.C., native, capped an impressive start to his Busch Series career with a sixth-place performance in last weekend's season opener at Daytona, despite starting the race at the rear of the field in a backup car. The rookie-of-the-year contender's next obstacle will be this weekend at North Carolina Speedway, a track he has yet to see in NASCAR competition. Riggs spoke about his experience at Daytona and the importance of establishing a rapport with the veteran drivers in the series.
SCOTT RIGGS - Nestle Nesquik Taurus
YOU HEAD TO ROCKINGHAM THIS WEEK, A TRACK THAT YOU HAVEN'T DRIVEN IN COMPETITION. DOES THE ROOKIE STRIPE MEAN A LITTLE MORE THIS WEEKEND? "I'm sitting in a good spot because this Nesquik team pretty much dominated the fall race there, and ran awful good in the spring race there as well. We've already been there twice, so we spent four whole days there testing, so we feel pretty good about it. I feel pretty good about it and Harold [Holly, crew chief] feels pretty good about it. I think we're going to go there, and, if anything, the rookie stripe is going to mean less there. This is sorta my return to the grassroots racing that I grew up doing. I guess you can call this a short track. It's a big track, but it's not a superspeedway-type. I think we'll be in good shape according to the times that we've run in testing compared to some of the other teams. Harold has really made the car feel comfortable to me and we've been consistent on the long runs, which I think will be one of the biggest obstacles."
JEFF GREEN LED THE MOST LAPS IN THE FALL RACE AT ROCKINGHAM. DID THE TEAM FIND SOMETHING THAT WEEKEND THAT YOU CAN PUT TO USE THIS YEAR? "Actually, I had a chance to test at Rockingham for the first time last year before the fall race. They actually used what we did in testing for Jeff to run in the fall race. It was a bit if role reversal there; I was the one who tested the car and they came back to the track almost exactly identical, and raced that identical setup. Jeff loved it and pretty much dominated the race until the last lap when he ran out of gas. That was the first thing that made me realize that we could get off to a fast start this year. The fact that they could go off of something that I was feeling, something I liked or didn't like to get the car comfortable really convinced me that this was going to be a good situation. Plus, Jeff jumped right in it and ran that good. Since then, we've been back to The Rock and we were even faster than we were before. I'm looking forward to this race."
YOU SAID IN DAYTONA THAT YOUR MAIN FOCUS WAS TO GET ONE RACE UNDER YOUR BELT. "I wanted to get a restrictor-plate race under my belt to learn what kind of patience it took and what kind of places you could put yourself in, and what kind of places you didn't want to put yourself in. Unfortunately, in practice, I found out where you don't need to be by wrecking the primary, but everything worked out well. I think we had a decent, respectable finish considering we had to start in the rear with the backup car. The guys gave me great pit stops all day and I couldn't ask them for much more than that. I was happy with the result and I think all the guys are happy with where we finished. We've got some work to do on the primary car before Talladega, but I'm confident that these guys will bust their butts to get it ready. I was at the shop today helping to remove the suspension pieces because we're taking it later in the week to have a new front clip installed. We thought that if we could finish in the top 10 in our first restrictor-plate race and first race of the season, that that would get us in the right direction and carry some momentum into Rockingham."
IT WAS ONLY ONE RACE, BUT DID YOUR SIXTH-PLACE FINISH AT DAYTONA CAUSE YOU TO RE-EVALUATE ANY OF YOUR GOALS OR EXPECTATIONS? "I think the first couple of races are real critical especially with me being a new driver for this experienced team. I think that was a key race to see how we would come out of the box. We've already done some testing at Rockingham and we feel pretty good about Vegas and Texas. We've already been to Darlington and tested, and that's a track where the veterans will have an upper hand. I only have run one truck race there, but I was able to go there for two days with Jason [Keller] and we communicated really well and hunted around for where you need to be on the long runs and how the track changes over the course of 40 laps. Of course, the track conditions will change even more when we go back there with the trucks, the Busch cars and the Cup cars all at once."
STARTING LAST WEEKEND'S RACE IN A BACKUP CAR, YOU HAD TO NAVIGATE YOUR WAY THROUGH A 43-CAR FIELD OPPOSED TO A 36-TRUCK FIELD THAT YOU WERE MORE ACCUSTOMED TO. DID YOU NOTICE A DIFFERENCE, ESPECIALLY AT DAYTONA, WHERE THE CARS ARE SO TIGHTLY BUNCHED? "The biggest thing about starting in the back is that there are so many more cars that are competitive in the Busch Series, that it takes a lot of time to make your way up front. Getting shuffled to the back in a truck race isn't as bad because you know you can usually get past a lot of trucks in the span of 10 laps. That wasn't the case in the Busch race. Getting shuffled to the back meant you needed at least 20 laps to make your way back to the front."
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT FOR YOU TO GET OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT WITH THE VETERANS IN THE SERIES? "That was one of our goals going into the race. That was real critical, especially at a restrictor-plate race because you need people to work with you and you need people to have confidence in you. You needed someone to step in line behind you, and I tried to follow a lot of them and not let them get hung out. Likewise, they treated me the same way, and after it was all said and done, I think I earned some of their respect. Jeff Purvis came up to me after the race and thanked me for helping him, and I hope that means he'll return the favor come Talladega or back at Daytona in July."
ARE YOU AT A HIGH ENOUGH COMFORT LEVEL TO APPROACH THE VETERANS FOR HELP OR ADVICE? "I think there are a few that I could walk up to, especially after last week's race. I definitely think you have to earn their respect before you can go up to them and try to pick their brains. And that wasn't a one-race deal. I want everyone to drive me clean and I hope they give me the same respect. The biggest thing about moving from one series to another is not knowing the way some people race and knowing who are the guys that do a little too much taking and not enough giving. You sorta start with a clean slate when you start in a new series, and I'm trying to let these guys know that I'm a clean driver. I hope some of those veterans will put a star by my name and remember that I raced them cleaned and repay the favor in the future."
YOU'RE STEPPING INTO PROVEN EQUIPMENT AS A ROOKIE. DO YOU FEEL ADDITIONAL PRESSURE TO PERFORM AT THE SAME LEVEL THIS TEAM IS ACCUSTOMED TO? "Not really. The only pressure that I feel is the pressure that I put on myself because I definitely feel like I need to perform; those are some pretty big shoes that I'm filling. This is a great bunch of guys and they've been really relaxed, so it's got me feeling right at home. I definitely put pressure on myself to do better, but at the same time, I feel real relaxed being with a group of guys that have so much experience and a great track record."
ARE THERE ANY SIMILARITIES BETWEEN YOUR SITUATION LAST YEAR AND YOUR CURRENT ONE IN THAT YOU WERE TEAMED WITH A VETERAN TEAMMATE AND A VETERAN CREW CHIEF? "Not at all. It was a different operation, and with different organizations, they have different ways of running their programs. You could take the same guys from one operation and plug them into a new one, but you won't get the same results. I think it comes down to the way an organization runs their program. I think that the way these guys work, they're awful laid back but at the same time awful intense about their racing. They make a real comfortable working environment and they keep pushing each other to do better, but at the same time, they're still supportive."