With optimism flowing from a return to injury and a fast car at last weekend’s testing session at Bristol Motor Speedway, Layne Riggs is excited to return for the second running of the Short Track U.S. Nationals.
The second-generation driver finished 14th in last season’s Late Model Stock feature at Thunder Valley, sanctioned by the CARS Response Energy Late Model Stock Tour. A late incident hampered his finish, but Riggs had a fast car throughout the weekend.
This season, Riggs feels the car is just as fast.
“I think we were pretty good off the trailer,” said Riggs following last weekend’s testing session. “I was pretty surprised. My team and everybody did a great job preparing the car. We came back with almost the exact same setup as last year. We had a pretty dominant car, I think, just some bad luck.
“We never even stopped to put on new tires,” Riggs added. “We had some old, dry-rotted tires that we ran here last year and it ran pretty good. I know [Josh] Berry went out there and put on new tires, so I’m pretty happy.”
Riggs is also thrilled to be back in Bristol. The 15-year-old from Bahama, North Carolina says the high-banked half-mile is his favorite track on the CARS Tour schedule.
“I love this track,” Riggs said. “By far, my favorite track so far. There is so much load. You go into the corner and you don’t even pull right. You just pull down straight into the seat. It’s so much fun, almost full throttle all the way around the track.
“It’s a long haul for us. It’s very high-banked, very much load. You’ve got to drive it a little bit different, but the main thing is to just go out there and give her hell. Just run it as hard as you can every single lap. Don’t be scared, that’s the important thing.”
Riggs has been doing his homework leading up to this weekend’s Short Track U.S. Nationals. Along with leaning on father (and former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitor) Scott Riggs for advice, the younger Riggs has been studying film for the event.
“I watched replays from Speed51 and my own in-car camera, just to make sure I was fully mentally prepared,” Riggs said. “I told everyone on this crew we have to make sure this car does not hit the ground. We are still struggling with that a little bit. We are still trying to get our travels right.”
As a member of the CARS Response Energy Tour’s “Touring 12” program, Riggs and his team committed to participating in every Late Model Stock event in the series for 2018. Even when Riggs suffered a collarbone injury in a dirt-bike incident earlier this year, Scott Riggs piloted the car in a race at their hometown track of Orange County Speedway (NC) to preserve his Touring 12 status.
The Short Track U.S. Nationals were exempt from the Touring 12 slate, which would have provided Riggs a reason to stay at home, further recuperate his healing shoulder, and prepare for the next series race at Ace Speedway (NC) on June 9. However, Riggs said he wouldn’t pass up a chance to go for a win at Bristol.
“For the CARS Tour Touring 12, this wasn’t a mandatory race to run,” said Riggs. “We wanted to run it because it gets a lot of exposure. It’s Bristol, everybody knows Bristol, everybody loves Bristol. It would be really beneficial for me to win this race.”
As for the shoulder, Riggs was pleasantly surprised with how it felt after the testing session. He admitted to some pain following the most recent CARS Tour event at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC), but felt the different forces at play at Bristol actually alleviate some of the stress.
“I was a little worried going into practice today,” Riggs confessed. “I was pretty surprised. We went to Hickory and after the race, I was super sore. I had to put ice on it Sunday, and I was worried about Bristol. Surprisingly, Hickory has more lateral load, horizontal versus vertical. I was pretty surprised. The seatbelts were rubbing on it, if anything. When you go down in the seat, it goes away from the seatbelt. I was pretty surprised and happy about it. I know I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
The Short Track U.S. Nationals return to the Last Great Colosseum in 2018 with six short track racing divisions in action. Race fans worldwide will be able to watch the excitement via a live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com. Early bird video tickets can be purchased today at a savings of $9.99. Click here to purchase your video tickets today.
-By Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @ZTEvans
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com