NO. 66 BACK IN TOP-35 AFTER POCONO LONG POND, Pa. -- Scott Riggs and the No. 66 State Water Heaters team had something to prove as they headed to Pocono Raceway for Sunday's Pocono 500, and with a 21st-place finish, they accomplished ...
NO. 66 BACK IN TOP-35 AFTER POCONO
LONG POND, Pa. -- Scott Riggs and the No. 66 State Water Heaters team had something to prove as they headed to Pocono Raceway for Sunday's Pocono 500, and with a 21st-place finish, they accomplished their mission.
Having been hit with a 150-pont penalty by NASCAR for not fitting the templates at Lowe's Motor Speedway and then crashing early on in the race at Dover last week, Riggs and company had fallen from 26th to 36th in owner points in just two weeks.
Lead by interim crew chief Matt Borland, who is subbing for suspended crew chief Bootie Barker, a determined Riggs was eager to begin his climb back toward the Top 20 points position that was well within grasp such a short time ago.
Faced with the uncomfortable situation of having to qualify on time for the first time this season, the team focused solely on the setup they would need to make the race during Friday's only practice session before qualifying. The team was able to find the speed and balance they needed and Riggs proceeded to post the ninth fasted lap during his qualifying run.
"We had a really good qualifying setup and probably had a shot at the pole," Riggs said. "But making the race was more important and we didn't need anything to happen during the run that would keep us out. So I wasn't as aggressive with it as I could have been, he said."
During the opening laps of the race, Riggs settled his Chevrolet Impala SS into the 11th position, reporting that his car was tight in traffic. When Riggs pitted for adjustments and possible paper on his grill, he caught a break when the caution came out for debris on the track. A car will commonly fall a lap down when this occurs, but on the 2.5-mile super speedway at Pocono, Riggs was able to stay on the lead lap while in the pits. He inherited the lead when the cars that had previously been in front of him pitted under the caution.
Riggs held the lead for six laps and in the process earned the five valuable bonus points associated with leading a lap.
"Matt's (Borland) strategy put us in position to catch a break and it paid off," Riggs said. "When you're in our position, hovering right around the Top 35 marker, every point makes a huge difference."
Throughout the race, Riggs said his car was tight through the centers of the corners and Borland called for a number of air pressure and track bar adjustments to help alleviate the condition.
"We were tight through the middle today and that's where they were beating us. We just needed to turn better," Riggs said. "Track position was a big factor, the car was definitely better in clean air."
Following Riggs' 21st-place finish the No. 66 team jumped two spots to 34th in owner points and has a guaranteed starting position for the Lifelock 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
"We accomplished our goal for the race, and that was to work our way back into the Top 35," Riggs said. "We don't have much of a cushion though, so we can't get comfortable.
"I'm very proud of the team for stepping up to the challenge and getting it done at Pocono. They definitely proved what I said last week, and that is that we're far better than the 36th position we found ourselves in."