BUSCH: Dover: Scott Riggs - NASCAR spotlight

Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader Riggs making waves as NASCAR Busch Series Championship contender. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 29, 2002) - Scott Riggs, who mastered winning in motocross and four-wheelers as a youth, will never forget the moment...

Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader Riggs making waves as NASCAR Busch Series Championship contender.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 29, 2002) - Scott Riggs, who mastered winning in motocross and four-wheelers as a youth, will never forget the moment as a 16-year-old when he decided to venture into the world of stock-car racing. He had visited Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, N.C. as a fan over the years, but now he found himself behind the wheel of a modified four-cylinder Ford and part of the show.

"I remember I was wearing my motocross helmet sitting in that race car and my eyes looked like two golf balls," Riggs said."It was kind of that' deer in the headlights' look. I really didn't know what I was getting myself into at the time."

Fast forward 15 years and Riggs can realize what he got himself into that day - a promising NASCAR career.

It took Riggs only a year before he became the track champion in that division and he has made a steady climb through the ranks, the latest rung being the NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division.

Riggs, a 31-year-old from Bahama, N.C., finds himself situated in strong contention for two lofty achievements - the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award and the NASCAR Busch Series championship.

Riggs (No. 10 Nestle Nesquik Ford) is leading the Raybestos Rookie of the Year race - owning a 72-point cushion over Shane Hmiel (No. 47Thomas Pacconi Classics Chevrolet) - and is third in the NASCAR Busch Series championship for ppc Racing and owner Greg Pollex.

He trails points leader Jason Keller (No. 57 Albertsons Ford) by 37 as the NASCAR Busch Series heads to Dover International Speedway for Saturday's MBNA Platinum 200.

He finds himself in this position courtesy of a pair of wins (Nashville, California) and an impressive show of consistency, especially for a rookie. In 13 starts, he has nine top-10 finishes, which is tied for the NASCAR Busch Series lead with Jack Sprague (No. 24 NetZero Chevrolet). Of those nine, six have been among the top five, which is second only to Keller in the series.

"I felt I could be a contender because I knew the team was able to - they've been intact for the last three years - and I just hoped I could mesh with the team and step up to the plate and perform," said Riggs, who won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Dover last season."I knew coming into this year that I could learn from the guys and crew chief Harold Holley and if I stepped up, we could be in the top five and right now we are on track."

Riggs has been a product of NASCAR's development system over the course of his racing career. He excelled in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Presented by Dodge - becoming a two-time late-model champion at Southern National Speedway in Kenly, N.C. - and in the Hills Bros All Pro Series, NASCAR Touring with eight top-10 finishes in 13 starts during the 1998 season. His break came in 2000 when his late-model team mustered enough finances to put together a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series ride.

"My first year in the truck series I didn't even have a ride through the first seven races, but my late-model team decided to put a truck deal together and we went to Martinsville," Riggs said."We qualified fifth and finished ninth and I got more phone calls after that than anything I ever did. It was definitely a turning point for me."

Riggs landed a full-season NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series ride with Ultra Motorsports in 2001 and enjoyed a breakout season. He collected five wins and four poles en route to a fifth-place finish in the championship.

"The truck series was a great steppingstone for me because it is a huge step to move up from late-model stock cars at Saturday night tracks on ply tires to mile-and-half tracks and radial tires," Riggs said."You need a bridge to cross to get you over there and the truck series was perfect."

The performance earned Riggs another elevation in the NASCAR national series ranks as he signed on with ppc Racing in the NASCAR Busch Series this season. There has been talk about a future move to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, but right now Riggs is very content in his current situation and has a contract through 2003.

"Everyone keeps asking me about when I'm going to go [NASCAR] Winston Cup racing, but to be honest with you it's very comforting to know that I am with a team right now that is very stable and with great sponsors," Riggs said."You know I've been with a different team every year in the last three years and it's relaxing to not have to worry halfway through the year where my next step will be. Maybe we will do some [NASCAR] Winston Cup races next year, but I don't want to even look that far ahead. I feel if you look too far ahead, you lose focus on what is at hand and I need to do as well as I can right here, right now."


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Drivers Jason Keller , Jack Sprague , Scott Riggs , Shane Hmiel