With the 2010 NASCAR season quickly reaching its conclusion, teams are beginning to look ahead and go forward with preparations for Speedweeks at Daytona and the start of the 2011 season.
And while some drivers who will not be returning to their 2010 seats have their futures already mapped out, there are still others who do not currently have 2011 plans, and conversely there are some teams who do not have a driver pegged to drive their cars.
There is one driver who has spent most of 2010 as a free agent, and the previous two seasons driving severely underfunded equipment just to keep his NASCAR dreams alive, who deserves another real chance at success.
That driver is Scott Riggs.
There are many people out there that would argue that Riggs has had his chance and never took advantage of it. Those same people would tend to think that Riggs is undeserving of a quality ride in any of NASCAR's top three series.
And while it is true that Riggs has never won at the Cup level, he has had plenty of success in both the Nationwide Series as well as the Truck Series. And as a stand-up and quality person, and potential spokesman for any sponsors, Riggs may just be more successful than any other driver.
From late 1999 through 2001, Riggs was a mainstay in the Camping World Truck Series. 2001, his first and only full time season in the series, was Riggs' breakthrough year. That year, Riggs earned five pole positions and won five races. He finished with 16 top ten's, of which 14 of them were top five's. He ended the season fifth in series points.
Riggs then made the jump to the Nationwide Series in 2002, where he spent the next two seasons. In his 68 races of full time Nationwide Series duty, Riggs earned two pole positions, and won four races. He had 30 top ten finishes, of which 19 of them were top 5's.
He ended both seasons in the top 10 in the final standings. Once in 10th and a career best of sixth in 2003. Riggs had the best average starting position of all drivers who competed in at least 20 events in 2003 and led the fifth most laps that season as well.
After two successful seasons in the Nationwide Series, Riggs made the jump to Sprint Cup. He spent his first two seasons driving for MB2 Motorsports and he found moderate success. In that span, he earned his first career pole, and grabbed six top 10 finishes, including a career best finish of second in 2005.
Then came his breakthrough season in the Sprint Cup Series. In 2006, now driving for Evernham Motorsports, Riggs finished a career best 20th in the series ending standings after missing the Daytona 500 because of mechanical failures.
During that season, Riggs captured two pole positions, finished a career high eight top 10's, including a top five finish and came within a pit road penalty from earning his first career victory in the Coca Cola 600. He also won the pole for the NEXTEL Open that season, and ultimately won the race, thus qualifying for the All Star race.
Then, just as success was on the horizon, his career hit a string of bad luck. 2007 was a disaster at Evernham Motorsports, as the whole team was plagued by equipment issues, as well as the pending merger with George Gillett. Ray Evernham's personal life was also, seemingly, the focal point of the season, while Riggs and the rest of the team were left to flounder.
After the merger with Gillett, Riggs was sent packing. He ultimately landed with the underfunded Haas/CNC team to drive the No. 66 car.
Riggs was able to average a 24th place finish through the first 12 races and had the car solidly in the top 35 in owner's standings, when a then record penalty was levied against the team, dropping them out of the top 35 in points, forcing Riggs to qualify on time.
When the team was going through the transition to be bought out by Tony Stewart, an incentive was laid out to Riggs by Stewart himself. Stewart offered Riggs a hefty bonus if he could get the 66 car back in the top 35 in owner's points, as that car would go on to become Ryan Newman's 39 car, and Stewart wanted it to be locked in to the first five races of 2009.
Ultimately, Riggs did what he was asked. He got the car back in the top 35 in owner's points, and in turn, was again sent packing, and looking for work.
2009 was possibly the most frustrating. After linking up with Tommy Baldwin and his startup operation, Riggs was impressively able to race his way into the Daytona 500 in an unsponsored car. He would go on to finish 25th in the Great American Race.
That would be the only high point of the season. After a few weeks of driving under powered equipment, Riggs was eventually asked to start and park. After doing that for a few races, Riggs realized that that was not how he wanted his career to go. He and Baldwin mutually parted ways.
In 2010, Riggs landed a ride back in the Nationwide Series, driving yet another unsponsored car, this time for RAB Racing. After qualifying for the first three races, Riggs miraculously had himself in 10th in the point standings, after finishes of 15th, 16th and fourteenth.
With the help of his fans, who donated money to sponsor Riggs, he competed in what would be his last race for RAB Racing at Nashville, as that team would be forced to bring in drivers on a weekly basis that could bring sponsorship with them. Riggs would finish 19th.
Riggs would then get a call a couple of months later from Richard Childress. Riggs was given the opportunity to drive the No. 21 Zaxby's Chevrolet at Nashville and Kentucky where he proved that he is still a very capable competitor. Riggs qualified in the top 10 for both events and finished ninth in each of the two races, proving that if given top tier equipment, he can deliver top tier results.
In six Nationwide races in 2010, Riggs has finished in the top 20 in all of them, and completed every lap.
He also competed for Keyed Up Motorsports at Phoenix in the Cup Series. After only making one of six races with Casey Mears driving, Riggs was given an opportunity. In his first attempt for the team he qualified in yet another underfunded and unsponsored machine. Riggs was running on the lead lap in 23rd place with less than ten laps to go when a cut tire relegated him to a 28th place finish, one lap down.
The team then suspended its operation due to lack of sponsorship.
So, for any owners with a vacant seat for 2011, Scott Riggs would make more than an admirable choice to fill it. I have had the chance to meet him and spend some time with him. Riggs is a humble man, who would make any sponsor proud.
He respects the sport and all of his fellow competitors, and if given the chance in a decent ride he has shown, this year especially, that he still has what it takes to be a quality driver in NASCAR.
Rick Hendrick once said this past offseason, that Riggs was the most talented driver without a ride. So, if NASCAR's top owner can see it, why can't everyone else?
And while Hendrick and former team owner, Ray Evernham, are both quick to point out that if you put Riggs in the 48, he may not be a four-time champion like Jimmie Johnson, he can easily be a top 20 driver who can get some wins, no doubt about it.
So, as silly season continues to unfold, and the 2011 season looms on the horizon, here's hoping that some owner, in any of NASCAR's top three divisions, takes heed of Hendrick's comments, and gives Scott Riggs a chance in a competitive ride.
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