BUSCH: Fontana: Raybestos Rookies interview

Raybestos® Rookie contenders Scott Riggs and Casey Mears for the April 27 Auto Club 300 Busch Series race at California Speedway. Riggs leads the Raybestos® Rookie standings by 27 points (107-80) over Johnny Sauter. Entering the Auto Club...

Raybestos® Rookie contenders Scott Riggs and Casey Mears for the April 27 Auto Club 300 Busch Series race at California Speedway.

Riggs leads the Raybestos® Rookie standings by 27 points (107-80) over Johnny Sauter. Entering the Auto Club 300, Riggs has one win, one pole, three top-five and five top-10 finishes. He is fifth in Busch Series points, 101 behind leader Jack Sprague.

Mears enters the California Event fresh off his best career finish in the Busch Series. He finished fifth in the Aaron's 312 at Talladega and took home Raybestos Rookie of the race honors for the first time this season. Mears, a native of Bakersfield California, is fifth in the Raybestos Rookie standings, 37 points behind Riggs. Mears and Riggs are the only members of the rookie class that have on-track experience at California Speedway.

SCOTT RIGGS, NO. 10 NESTLE NESQUIK FORD:

"I've been to California Speedway twice. The first time I went my first lap on the track was my qualifying lap. We made the show and we raced our way up to 13th. Then last year we went with the truck and sat on the pole and had 'em pretty much destroyed and I got too impatient early in the race and took myself out and crashed. It's a real fast racetrack, wide with plenty of racing room. Still the place to be I think is right around the bottom. I think the car we're taking ran at Vegas. I think we will be pretty good."

DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE A LOT OF DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TRUCK AND THE CAR?

"So far the obvious differences are with the body. You can't charge the corner very hard. You have to use some brakes getting in the corner and not drive it in too hard. The other difference is the shorter wheelbase for the cars. You have to catch the car from getting out of shape; you have to catch it a little quicker versus the truck. When we get there I think I'll be comfortable and fit right in."

ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT YOU HAVE ALREADY WON A RACE AND A POLE THIS EARLY IN THE SEASON?

"It's great for me and I'm ecstatic about it but at the same time I can't say I'm surprised because it's the whole team effort that makes it happen. These guys are used to winning five or six races a year and they need more. That win (in the Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway) just satisfied them. It definitely didn't get away with anyone. It just satisfied them that we knew we could do it and they needed to get back to victory lane."

DID THE WIN TAKE PRESSURE OFF YOU?

"I don't think so. Really, no one has put any pressure on me all year. I think getting that win under our belts put more momentum behind us, a little more confidence behind myself. Like I say, it's still a team effort and every single week that chain has to be strong."

DO YOU THINK THAT YOU OR ANY OF YOUR FELLOW RAYBESTOS® ROOKIES HAVE A SHOT TO WIN THE RACE?

"I think so. Hopefully the 10 (Riggs) will be close to the front and we will be able to get us another win. You still have to do the same thing and keep our focus on the big picture and that's being consistent week in and week out."

CASEY MEARS, NO. 66 PHILLIPS 66 DODGE:

"My first year there was in 1997. I raced there in an Indy Lights car and my last race there in an Indy Lights car was in 2000. I ran 2000 and 2001 in a champ car. In every race I've had there we've been very successful. I always ran in the top-five. I think I got a second there and we've led a lot. We led both champ car races at different points. I finished fourth with (car owner Bobby) Rahal in 2000 and we got eighth with MoNunn Racing in 2001. We've had some success there and ran well and that's a good feeling going back. Obviously driving the Phillips 66 car this year is going to be a totally different beast, something totally different that I have to learn. It's another one of those tracks where when you come to the track you are limited on tires by the rule. That's really where a rookie is at a disadvantage coming to a new place. My first time around that place is going to be strictly learning the track with this car. Other people's first time out there are going to be a qualifying run. Given that I have been at the track and I do know where some of the bumps are and I know the configuration a little bit I don't think it's going to be too long before we get up to speed. I'm really looking forward to it."

AS A NATIVE CALIFORNIAN, WOULD YOU LIKE TO RUN BETTER THERE THAN SOME OF THE OTHER PLACES THAT WE GO?

"Obviously, I'd like to run better there, but if I was to win at Nashville and I didn't at California I would be happy that I won at Nashville. I'm not really picky as far as that goes. I've got a lot of friends and family and a lot of people there (at California) and it's my home state. I'd love to run good there and it would mean a lot to me. I'm not putting a lot of stress on it."

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE OF YOUR RAYBESTOS® ROOKIE SEASON?

"I haven't had a big surprise (laughs). The team was so experienced and I had so many friends that are involved in this series that have either driven Busch or are in Winston Cup now that I've leaned on and got information from that I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. There's been a lot of little things that are different but not any huge surprises. Nothing has been huge but there's been a ton of little things that I've had to learn. It would be hard to pick out something that's been big this year. Nothing really stands out, to be honest."

ARE YOU PLEASED WITH YOUR SEASON?

"I have been. I haven't been pleased with our finishes. I don't think anybody on the team is because we know we can do better than that. But I have been pleased with some of our performances. We've ran in the top-10 in several of the races this year. We qualified well at Vegas and ran good. We were running in the top-10 at Daytona. We were running in the top-10 at Nashville. We were running in the top-10 at Bristol. We were running well at all those places. It just seemed like we either got into it with somebody or maybe had a mechanical failure. Once we get all our ducks in a row, we know what our potential is and we know that we can get top-10s. That's a good confidence builder for me, especially after leaving Nashville and running as well as we did. There's kind of a light bulb that clicked in my head on how to drive these cars. It wasn't anything big but it was small and it helped. At the same time we found something big in the setup the way that I like the car. That translated really well to Richmond when we tested last week. We're going to get better and better all the time and we just know if we can not have some of those gremlins, we're going to come out on top."

HOW DIFFERENT ARE THE HEAVIER STOCK CARS VERSUS THE OPEN WHEEL CARS?

"Everything is different. There isn't anything the same. How different is hard to say on a scale, but it's huge. There isn't one thing that's the same but everything that I've ever done has been like that. When you go from go-karts to off-road that's totally different but you've just got to learn it. When I went from open wheel to stock car, the same thing. When I went from go-karts to open wheel, that's different. Every step is different, but this is probably different than I've ever had before. It's not one big thing but just a lot of little things."

CAN YOU TRANSFER ANYTHING FROM OPEN WHEEL CARS TO STOCK CARS?

"Hit and miss. There are definitely things that you can transfer over. A lot of things that can be transferred over to improve on and a lot of the Cup guys are really touching on it now is a lot more of the telemetry-type things in testing and things like that are huge. As far as actually driving the car, no. There really isn't anything. You really have to drive these (stock cars) a lot different than an open wheel car."

-raybestos-

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jack Sprague , Scott Riggs