Short track racing is not only about doing everything possible to have the best car, but having the timing to make the winning move when available. That move came for Layne Riggs shortly after halfway in Sunday night’s fourth annual Labor Day Classic at Carteret County Speedway (NC).
Fast qualifier Michael Tilley accelerated out to an impressive advantage over the opening laps, which were mainly caution free, and appeared to be the car to beat in his Miller Genuine Draft throwback scheme ride. That was until the yellow flag was displayed on lap 60 when Jamie York spun in turn four.
On the restart, York’s father and most recent winner at the 4/10-mile facility, Jason York, stepped up to the challenge for the top spot. York and the Winston-Salem, North Carolina 28-year-old made contact in turn four. Tilley nearly lost control, but managed to correct it. Nevertheless, the damage was done as he lost numerous positions.
It was at this point that Riggs entered the situation. With the lost momentum from York and Tilley’s contact, the Bahama, North Carolina teenager pounced the next time by to get to the lead.
“When they got together, I took advantage of it,” Riggs told Speed51.com. “You have to take advantage of times like that to really make sure you get the win. Little things like that are what makes it happen in the end. Track position is key.”
With a Late Model he admittedly thought was capable of only a third or fourth-place finish at the start, Riggs originally would have been satisfied to simply bring the car home in one piece.
“We didn’t have the best car at the beginning by any means,” Riggs noted. “It was really tight and I was just trying to save tires best I could for the end. That was the breaker. If I would have been on the outside on one of them restarts I don’t think I would have been able to get up to the lead and get that track position, be able to get the jumps on the restarts and the clean air on my nose to keep me turning through the corners. It just all played in our favor tonight.”
A competition caution was displayed at lap 100 and set up what ended up being another pivotal point in the feature. Running within the top five, Tilley’s night went from bad to worse. A multi-car incident on the backstretch collected him along with contenders Mason Diaz, T.J. Barron, Eric Winslow, and Jason York.
Being in front of all the mayhem worked out for Riggs, but he was not yet completely out of the water.
A number of new challengers were ready to get after Riggs following the stoppage for cleanup, but it was at that point that his car really started coming to him. In addition, tire conversation played a factor at the track that opened on Labor Day weekend in 2015.
“When we had that red flag, the tires got a full heat cycle on them and it really helped the car balance,” Riggs said. “It was almost one of the best cars I’ve ever driven at the end of the race.”
One of the local favorites, Chris Burns, registered his fastest lap of the race nearing 10 to go and made the drive from fourth to second on the final restart. It was a huge turnaround from where the team was at only a short time earlier.
“We had a game plan for saving the whole race anyway, and we actually had what I really think was a rear end problem,” the Swansboro, North Carolina driver indicated. “It really affected us toward the end of the 100 laps. I don’t think we had anything for Layne. I wish we had another caution to bunch it back up, but he’s pretty strong. Those guys are professionals. Congratulations to them. For what this thing was at lap 103, I’m tickled to finish second.”
Langley Speedway regular Connor Hall turned in a podium finish, while Carteret County Speedway points leader Brandon Clements and two-time Labor Day Classic past winner Clay Jones rounded out the top five.
Riggs spoke about the prestige of winning such an event at the speedway, and how he hopes that more will continue to join in for their next big Late Model event in late October.
“Thanks to (track owner) Bobby (Watson) for putting this race on,” Riggs, who also won a $15,000-to-win race at the track in July, added. “He does a good job promoting the track. They realize the money is down here. This is where they need to come to win big money races. It was a lot tougher tonight.”
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com National Correspondent – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Fourth Annual Labor Day Classic Unofficial Results
1 Layne Riggs
2 Chris Burns
3 Connor Hall
4 Brandon Clements
5 Clay Jones
6 Jamie York
7 Chris Phipps
8 Mason Diaz
9 Michael Tilley
10 Jason York
11 T.J. Barron
12 Eric Winslow
13 Tim Allensworth
14 Travis Roberson