Daytona 500: Scott Riggs pre-race interview

Daytona 500 Q&A with Rookie Driver Scott Riggs DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 2, 2004)--Rookie of the Year contender Scott Riggs will make his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup debut in his No. 10 Valvoline Chevrolet at the upcoming Daytona 500 (Feb. 15) at Daytona...

Daytona 500 Q&A with Rookie Driver Scott Riggs

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 2, 2004)--Rookie of the Year contender Scott Riggs will make his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup debut in his No. 10 Valvoline Chevrolet at the upcoming Daytona 500 (Feb. 15) at Daytona International Speedway.

The 33-year-old Bahama (ba-HAY-ma), N.C. native is coming off of two successful seasons in the NASCAR Busch Series.

After winning Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors in 2002 and leading his team to a 10th place finish in the point standings, Riggs went on to capture the Most Popular driver award in 2003 and contended for the championship throughout the season before settling for a sixth-place finish.

Now, with another Rookie of the Year title up for grabs, Riggs looks to make a strong statement in Daytona with his Valvoline race team that includes a new driver, new crew chief, new crew and new car manufacturer.

In a question and answer session below, Riggs talks about his journey to this point in his career, his first start in the Daytona 500, his new ride, his family and what his team hopes to accomplish in 2004.

Q: You have been a successful racer for many yearsandhave now reachedthe pinnacle of stock car racing. Did you ever think the opportunity you have this year would come, or had you resigned yourself to the fact that it may never happen?

RIGGS: I had hoped it would come. I thought I was capable of competing at this level, but ultimately I had to wait until the right people figured that out. And I thank everyone at Valvoline Racing for making it happen.

I didn't get my racing opportunities the way a lot of guys have. I climbed my way through the ranks, starting out in motocross. I've been racing for enough years to know that a lot of things in this sport come down to breaks, and fortunately for me, I was able to get the break I needed to move into the truck series and then into the Busch Series. Once I got there, I feel like I did what I needed to do to generate the opportunity I have now.

Q: You were a hot property last fall, what made you choose Valvoline Racing over other teams that showed interest in you?

RIGGS: I get this question a lot. Other teams told me 'we've got the best team,' or 'we've got the best equipment,' or 'I know we're going to be successful.' I felt like this team was really the most honest. They said 'we've got strengths and we've got weaknesses and what we want to do is work to change those weaknesses.' They wanted to build this team and wanted me to be a part of that building process verses me just stepping into the driver's seat. Besides, what other team's sponsor is on the car, in the car, and owns the car?

Q: What do you say to people who refer to you as one of the next "young guns?"

RIGGS: Well, when you look at some of the other rookies, I'm not really a young gun...I guess I'm more of a middle-aged gun. The other rookies I'm competing against are very talented and I don't think age is going to have any impact on their performances. I think it's just going to come down to the best team with the best chemistry and who can get the best results. I think we will be right in the hunt.

Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman set a new standard for what rookies can accomplish a couple of years ago and I'm hopeful that this young Valvoline team will be able to surpass that bar.

Q: Describe your feelings about competing in your first Daytona 500?

RIGGS: To say you're going to compete in the Daytona 500 means that you're part of the most elite racing series in the world. Who wouldn't feel excited or proud or humbled when they say that? I don't think it will hit me until after the race is over. I'm so fortunate to be where I am today. I didn't know when or if this opportunity would ever present itself, and now that it has, I'm just amazed that I'm a part of it all.

Q: Do you recall watching the Daytona 500 as a child and thinking that you wanted to do that one day?

RIGGS: No, I never really thought about wanting to do it. I thought it would be a pretty cool thing to do, but I never thought I'd have the opportunity or actually end up being there, let alone with such a quality team.

Q: Drafting is such an important part of the Daytona 500. How would you evaluate yourself as a drafter?

RIGGS: I really think it depends on how good your car is. I always seem to get caught up in the big wrecks, but when I don't, I tend to have pretty good finishes on superspeedways.

Q: What does it mean to have Doug Randolph with you as crew chief for the second year in a row?

RIGGS: This is the first year I've ever had a crew chief two years in a row, at any level. It's the first time I haven't run them off. That's a huge advantage when you're going into a new year and especially with a new team. We already have those communication lines open and we don't have to take the time to learn each other's ways and tendencies. I'm hopeful that will be a benefit for us this season.

Q: What are your feelings about driving for Valvoline, the only consumer products company toown a NASCAR NEXTEL Cupteam?

RIGGS: It's an honor to be with Valvoline Racing -- they're not only in the car and on the car, but they also have ownership of the car. I have so much confidence in this team. With Valvoline having such a rich, successful history in racing, I knowthey want to win as badly as I do and they are willing to do what it takes to be successful. They have so much dedication to this program and they've really shown that by stepping up and really making an investment in the team. Valvoline always wants to exceed their expectations and I know that's what the team wants to do as well.

Q: What are the goals for your team in 2004?

RIGGS: Our immediate goals are to be consistent every week and finish races. Obviously this is our only year to compete for Raybestos Rookie of the Year, so that is important for us too. Really we just want to get consistent results each week and eventually bring home some top 10s, then some top-fives, and hopefully a win.

Q: Your dad (Russell) has been to all the races in your career except one. How does that make you feel?

RIGGS: I really don't know any different. 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. Everyone in my family, including my wife (Jai, pronounced Jay), knows how hard I've worked to get to where I am and I think they're proud that I've been able to be successful.

Q: Will your dad continue to come to the races this year?

RIGGS: He'll say he won't come to as many this year, but then when the time comes he will. He can't stand not to know what's going on.

-vr/df-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Scott Riggs