Dodge Teleconference Tuesday, April 18, 2006 SCOTT RIGGS (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge Charger) NOTE: Riggs has scored back-to-back top-10 finishes at Martinsville and Texas and moved from 36th to 28th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup ...
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
SCOTT RIGGS (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Riggs has scored back-to-back top-10 finishes at Martinsville and Texas and moved from 36th to 28th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings. The 35-year-old driver from Bahama, N.C., is in his first season behind the wheel for Evernham Motorsports. He'll make career start No. 78 on Saturday night at Phoenix.
OPENING COMMENTS "I think Bristol stands out in my mind more than anything else. We had to start on points because it rained out qualifying and that put us starting 38th on the field. We took our time and drove our way up to 23rd, which doesn't sound like a lot, but considering how tight the corners are at Bristol, we were trying to take care of the car and move to the front. Passing is so difficult there. It was pretty good for us. I thought we had a good shot at finishing in the top 10. The car was pretty fast, even after we wrecked it and got back out there we were still running pretty fast lap times. We're doing well. It was definitely not in our plans to miss Daytona and put ourselves in a hole, but the team is coming around just as we had planned as far as communication, getting up to speed, working well with the 9 and 19 and being able to communicate with each other and being able to work as three-car, one-team operation. I think everyone is working well together. It's fun for me to get in good racecars every week. I know we had a real good car at Texas last week. We finished seventh which is good, but not satisfactory considering we had a car that was running third and faster than both guys running ahead of us. We lost a little bit on pit stops. The same thing hurt us on our next worst finish at Las Vegas. We had a great car there and kept getting hammered in the pits and losing position in the pits. I made a mistake with two laps to go when we pitted and I sped on pit road. We had a green-white-checkered start and I was the last person on the lead lap and that hurt us for sure. We just need to quit making mistakes as a team. I think we're definitely coming together well, and I think we're starting to see we can, when we make fewer mistakes, we have the opportunity to run better and be competitive."
COMMENT ON RACING AT PHOENIX "We haven't had a real good car there since we were in the Busch Series, so the last couple of years have been tough for Phoenix. I had decent cars, but nothing we could really be competitive with. I know Evernham Motorsports as a whole has struggled a little bit at Phoenix. This weekend I get to drive the Busch car, which has always run well at Phoenix, and I think we learned a lot at the Richmond test last week as a company to help us with this new tire we have going to Phoenix and our setup as far as what we need to be competitive at Phoenix. I hope that having the test under our belt is going to put all three Cup teams to the forefront and be able to be competitive. I think we will. The Busch car will help not only with the racetrack but with the tire, and I think we can have a good race on Friday night and whatever we learn with the Busch car will help the three Cup teams on Saturday night. Phoenix is definitely a unique place. It's a driver's racetrack. There's nothing symmetrical about it. Turns one and two are really tight. The dogleg on the backstretch is really unique to Phoenix. Three and four is really long and broad, almost like a Loudon, really flat, long corners. You really have to have the car to rotate well and roll and turn the center of the corners well while it's rolling to turn fast laps there and be consistent there and make passes. I feel like we've got a good step on it, better than anything I've had the past couple of years for sure."
WHAT WAS YOUR MINDSET AFTER MISSING DAYTONA 500? "Daytona is something I talked about from the first time we talked about not having points for this new team. All the different racetracks we go to, I was not scared about not qualifying for the race except for Daytona. Daytona has so many different angles and so many other things you have to rely on to go your way and make sure it puts us in the right place and so many different opportunities for things to go wrong. We were definitely fast enough to guarantee our way in on time. Then we had a gear failure in qualifying. We had already run that gear two times in practice and had no problems with it. We didn't foresee anything going wrong and the one time it mattered was when we were putting down our qualifying lap and that's when we had the trouble. That's one thing that went wrong. We had a jack fall on us with eight laps to go in the race and drove up right behind Mike Wallace, who was the last car to make the race. We drove right up to that last position and had no one behind us to help push us to make a challenge or charge. There are so many things unique to a superspeedway that you have to depend on other cars around you. You have to depend on being at the right spot air wise and depend on being able to draft and make your passes and make things happen at the right time. That was one place that sort of had me worried because so much was out of my hands so to speak that I couldn't drive in the corner harder than the next guy or get a car turned or get back in the gas before them because you're wide open there. That was a place that worried me the most. Once it did happen it was frustrating for me and disappointing for me, but at the same time, I just knew what kind of team I was with this year and what kind of potential I had with this team. I was probably frustrated and down but probably not as down as some people might have thought. I definitely felt like this was one race. I didn't feel like it was the end of our season already. I think it's going to be something that people look back on when we climb into the top 15 in points that it's going to surprise everyone we can do that by missing one race."
YOU'RE ONLY 210 POINTS OUT OF 10TH PLACE. DO YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT IT WOULD TAKE TO MAKE THE CHASE? "We don't. Right now we're just taking one race at a time. As a new team, we just need to focus on week to week. We want to get to victory lane. There's no one hungrier to get to victory lane and taste victory than myself and this entire 10 team. I know Valvoline hasn't been to victory lane for awhile. Stanley Tools, stepping on board this year, those guys are anxious to see their car in victory lane, so we want to go after winning races. It's good to be with a team and organization that's so strong when you unload on Fridays you feel that this could be the weekend, that you have a legitimate shot. We're not points' racing. We're aggressively going after winning races. We were points' racing the first four races. That's when we had to be careful and not take any gambles. We had to be on the secure side and make sure we were going to be there at the end. We needed to get as many points as we could so we didn't have to qualify for that sixth race, which we were. We did get ourselves in position to be in the top 35 after four races, after missing Daytona and only having four races to do it. We did that. We're looking forward to going to races now and trying to be competitive and take chances that are going to win us races, not win us points. We're really not points' racing right now. We're trying to do as good as we can, but if we can continue to be competitive and run in the top five and top 10 all day, I think things are going to work out for points."
WHAT GOOD TRACKS ARE COMING UP FOR YOU? "It's funny you say that because there are so many different tracks we talk about. There's not one racetrack I've struggled with in the past or worry about or have had difficulty at that I say, 'man I'm going there this year and it's going to be tough again.' The only tracks that I see that I've still got a huge learning curve to overcome are the road courses. That's just due to not having as much experience as the guys I'm racing against. I feel that all the tracks we go to are tracks where we can surprise somebody and come out victorious. I feel good about everywhere we go. Do I have favorites? Not really anymore. As soon as you get a favorite track and say this is a track I really like that's when you go there and you don't run well and vice versa. You say you hate a track and you go there and your car is great and you're passing people left and right and your car is competitive. I sort of threw out having favorites or tracks I dislike. It's all about how your team works together and how it gels and communicates and how well you prepare your car for the race that weekend. The only places, I won't say I don't look forward to, but the only places I look at being a challenge this year are the road courses."
DO YOU AND TEAMMATE KASEY KAHNE USE SIMILAR SETUPS? "Kasey and I are really close on our setups. Usually we're pretty close on lap times. Kasey is someone I've known since the Busch Series, and he's like me. Whatever makes the car go fast that's how we need to drive the car that weekend. Everybody talks about style and things that are good for your style. If that's the case I don't have a style yet. My style is whatever makes the racecar go fast, you put it under it and I'll drive it. That's pretty much the way Kasey looks at it. The best drivers are the ones that don't have a "style". It's just the ability to adapt and go fast at whatever the racetrack and whatever the situation is. The way the tracks change over the course of 500 miles or the amount of laps you run, you have to be able to adapt. The way the groove changes, you have so many good drivers at this level, they're moving all over the track trying to find grip and you have to be able to do the same. You have to do whatever it takes to make your car go fast. If it's against the grain or against what you feel, if that's what it takes to go fast then that's what you'll do. You'll make yourself put the gas down when you think you shouldn't or get slowed down when you think you should drive it in the corner hard. Whatever makes a fast lap. Me and Kasey have been working great together. I know that Jeremy has been a big plus for the 19, someone who has been here awhile and has a lot of confidence. At the same time I know he's been struggling this year, but I think that's just because they have so many new people together on that team. They're still working together and figuring out all the kinks of a new team. I think the reason Kasey is running well is because they're making the fewest amount of mistakes right now. They have confidence. Kenny Francis is doing a great job over there as team director. Kenny is someone I have a lot of respect for and I think he works well with my team director. Rodney Childers has been able to come over here with me, and Kenny, Rodney and myself grew up running late models all over North Carolina, South Carolina. I know Kenny is from Florida, but he used to travel up and race against us. It's pretty cool to have guys I raced with for so long and have much mutual respect and now we are able to work together as one big team."
COMMENT ON COMFORT IN THE RACECAR "Comfort to me these days in a racecar, to me, is when I'm passing a lot of cars. To me that's comfortable. That's when it's good. That's when it's fun. You definitely have to have the car where you can drive it, where you can manhandle it. My word is to hustle the car around the racetrack, make the car do things and manipulate what you can do with the car. When the car is not running well and it's not fast, that's usually when you cannot manipulate it. That's when it's manipulating you. That's when you have to do what the car is calling for. Drivers are definitely getting stronger. The competition level is definitely getting stronger. I don't think there's any driver at this level that's competitive that would say he's on a Sunday cruise and is not at the limit and on edge. All of us have to do that. I think that's NASCAR's reasoning on their rule changing that makes the car so difficult to drive.
You cut the spoiler off these cars and Goodyear builds harder tires with less grip. When you do things in that direction, it's going to make the car go slower and it's going to make the car harder to go fast and be on edge without the downforce we want on the rear. The tires don't have the kind of grip we can lean on. You can't use the spoiler on the rear of the car. The cars are freer and basically all you can do is drive them to the limit they give you. I don't think any driver can say they're just out there riding around these days. I think you have to be on top of the wheel and you have to be pushing yourself every lap."
COMMENT ON THE 9 TEAM AND EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS OVERALL "I wasn't trying to take anything away from Kasey at all by saying he's made the fewest amount of mistakes. Kasey has definitely had a new vibrance about himself this year. I think his confidence is where it needs to be. I think he's focused on what he needs to feel in the car and confident about that, confident about what he says. Kenny is confident about what Kasey says about the car and confident in himself that he can make the changes to make the car drive the way Kasey wants it. I think Evernham as a whole is definitely stronger than last year. Aero wise, body wise, we've had to go to more work to make our Dodge Chargers better this year because of the lack of confidence other Dodge teams had in the Charger and chose to go with the Intrepids. Well, when you do that, that sort of limits what NASCAR is willing to look at for changes in the Charger when you can't even get on the same page about what car you want to run. I think if all the cars across the board were focused on the Chargers all year instead of worrying about Intrepids, their cars aero-wise would be as good as ours. Our engineering has been working so hard this year to give information to our team directors to make good decision on our chassis, make good aero balance decisions. At the same time our engine department has stepped up leaps and bounds since I've been here. I know they've made a huge gain in the engine department and just listening to Jeremy and Kasey, we're a lot better than last year. I think as a company as a whole, they're giving Kasey better cars. Kasey is driving the car with confidence, and Kenny Francis in the pits is making the calls and making good calls for Kasey. Those are the reasons they're making the fewest mistakes and that's the reason they're running head and shoulders better this year compared to other Dodge teams."
DOES YOUR TEAM OPERATE THE SAME AS THE 9 AND 19? "The only difference is we have a little bit different paint scheme every week. That's all. All three teams have the same information. All three teams work together as brothers across the board from the engineering side to the testing side to anything. It's really amazing to me to come here as a new team and be treated as an equal as soon as you come in the front door. We were welcomed with open arms, and they knew coming into this that if they brought a third team in and give equal parts and people, all that, if this new team could be strong it would just help the whole organization be stronger. I think with having a third team here has definitely helped the entire Evernham operation. That's something that's also contributed to Kasey and these guys running as well as they have. We've had good cars this year. Jeremy has had good cars this year. We just haven't had the finishes that Kasey and those guys have. I couldn't be prouder. I think that Kasey is a great racecar driver and has great control. I talked before about how much respect I have for Kenny. All the guys on that team are really on top of what they need to be on top of. They're really focused. They're confident in each other and that's why they're running well, not because of any tricks in the bag or definitely not because they have something the 10 and 19 don't. They're hitting on all 8 cylinders right now, whereas I think the 10 and 19 are still overcoming the aspect of the new team this year."
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN YOU AND THE AVERAGE FAN? "That's a hard question for me. Personality wise I have a difficult time saying I can do something that other people can't do. As a driver, I don't look at another driver and say he's a lot better driver than I can ever be. I always feel if someone is doing something better than me, that means I haven't taken the time to focus and learn what to do to do the same. I think I have a lot of years under my belt driving racecars. I try to stay mentally and physically sharp and deal with the pressures, and heat and the tension and stress levels we go through during the race. What makes me different? I don't know. Reflexes are something all racecar drivers have to have. You can't go on the track and be sluggish or slow and that goes back to being physically and mentally sharp. I work out regularly at home with a physical trainer. I first began in motocross when I was 13. I still ride my dirt bikes and go to motocross tracks. That's more of a mental thing for me than physical. It's a physical activity, but mentally more than anything else it helps me get some of my aggression out. I have a hard time saying I'm something special. That just goes against my personality."
DO DODGE WINS INSTILL CONFIDENCE ABOUT THE CHARGER? "Absolutely, it makes us feel confident in what we're doing. It makes us feel confidence in our cars and confidence in our team. Confidence is something you cannot buy no matter how much money your sponsor gives you. There are two things you can't buy. You can't buy confidence and experience. Those are two things you have to earn and build on. When that confidence starts rising and you get on that roll, that momentum roll that Kasey and the 9 team are on right now, it makes it better for everyone around. When that confidence level is up you're not second guessing your decisions, you're not second guessing your thoughts. You're not second guessing yourself. You're being pure. You're pulling out your pure ideas and your pure heart about what the car is doing and what you need to do to make it better. That's usually when everybody is relaxed and your best ideas and work come forward. It's definitely inspiring for me to have my teammate run well. I think Jeremy and Kasey both feel the same way, the better my teammate runs, the better I'm going to run the next week. That's what we've built on here and that's what we've built toward the future, to get like the 9 team is now."
WERE OTHER DODGE TEAMS TALKING ABOUT WHAT KASEY DID AT TEXAS DURING THE RICHMOND TEST? "No one came to us and spoke about it. Like I said before, I think they're looking back and thinking 'we should have stayed with the Dodge Charger program and kept our mind focused on the piece we had in front of us instead of worrying about backing up and doing something different.' There's no way with what we know here at Evernham about a Charger vs. an Intrepid, there's no way we'd carry an Intrepid to the racetrack these days. We're too far advanced, too far in technology and working toward making our Dodge Chargers work. By Kasey going out and winning two races this year, racing for the points, being up front, being competitive every week, that keeps your confidence in the Charger. It's almost a Catch-22. We almost want the other Dodge teams that had confidence in the Charger before and stayed on it, the bad thing is they are probably running better right now and that's more competition for us. The good thing is when everybody decided on the Charger, and we did have some ideas we needed to make some changes on the nose this year, NASCAR may have listened to us and we may have gotten those changes. Those changes we had to modify to try to incorporate our cars. It still could be a better racecar. That's how we always look at our cars. We always think they could be better if we work on them harder, so we still want to make them better. We think the new Monte Carlo and Ford Fusion is something we have to keep working to make sure we stay in front of. Right now I think the Dodge Charger is definitely in front of them, and Kasey is doing a good job of proving that. I can't wait for us to be in victory lane to prove it as well."
CLOSING COMMENTS "Results show everything. The proof's in the pudding. There's been a lot of negativity as far as not knowing what to expect of myself and this team. I know the last couple of years in the Cup level I got labeled as somewhat of a backmarker, not running competitive week after week. I'm just very fortunate to be here at Evernham Motorsports with Ray having the belief in me from several years ago and having the belief behind me from Valvoline and Stanley this year. I've got this new opportunity to go out and prove myself and do all the things I think we can do in a racecar. I'm just fortunate to get a chance to be in such a good car with such a good team. This team coming to Evernham really opened my eyes. I always had so many questions. Why couldn't we find this answer? Why couldn't we test this? Why couldn't we have someone engineer wise to solve this for us? I've never had those answers before, and now coming here with that exact frame of mind and the questions I had are the same things that people at Evernham Motorsports have not only thought about but tested and stretching even farther into the depths of those questions to find even more specific answers to be even better as a team. It really operates the way a Cup team should in my opinion. I just feel very fortunate to be here, to have that behind me in a team and to be able to prove what I can prove."