Stewart's move to Haas likely makes Riggs odd man out -- again
How will Tony Stewart's arrival at Haas CNC Racing impact Scott Riggs in 2009? The underrated Riggs could be out of a job -- again, writes Marty Smith.
Updated: July 23, 2008, 3:01 PM ETBy Marty Smith | ESPN.com
Wafting Smoke choked out D2D last week quicker than Tito Ortiz on Screech, and much to their chagrin, The Six never made air. Some guy named "Big Bird" even cussed at me in a backhanded compliment sort of way -- a "Good job on Stewart! Now get off your [rear end]!" sort of way. Hammer down. The Six don't show up to run second.
Marty, We're HUGE Smoke fans -- great job on the Stewart Haas story and the interview of Tony on ESPN. We don't see him open up that much very often. But make ESPN get you a new picture on TV. You look so mad, like somebody called your mother a bad name. On to my question. Everyone is saying Ryan Newman will drive the second car for Tony. What's going to happen to Scott Riggs? He's from near us in North Carolina and seems like a nice guy and we don't want to see him out of a job. Is he going to have a job next year?-- Marissa Collins, Mebane, N.C.I don't want to see Riggs out of a job, either, Marissa. I'm a big believer in Scott Riggs. His ability is underrated. He's labeled as a 25th- to 30th-place driver, based largely on marginal (at best) success in the Cup Series. I believe he is more talented than that.A driver is only as good as his team, and right now Haas isn't a good team. When Riggs was at Evernham, they were awful.If Tony Stewart got in the 66 tomorrow he couldn't win. Not a chance. Stewart has a truckload of personnel decisions to make over the next seven months, because this sport is all about people. The Haas equipment is great -- Riggs drives the same parts and pieces that Jimmie Johnson does. The difference? The people wrenching on them.
AP Photo/Jae C. HongScott Riggs on his future at Stewart-Haas Racing: "It's so frustrating the way my hand's played out. I don't know which way to go."
Riggs' future is unknown. Utterly so. I spoke with him Monday and he doesn't think he'll be back at Stewart Haas. So, then, what is cooking on the burner?"Nothing," he said. "Not one thing. I know I have 17 races left to try to do the best job I can with the people I have with me right now. I have spoken with Tony. There is a small possibility I could be at Haas next year, but that's still uncertain. "I'm ready to find a place that not only can I get my feet in the foundation, but be there long enough see it built to completion and be successful. I'm more confident in my ability as driver and leader on and off track than I've ever been. But it'll take the people and the resources to prove that."It can't be a one-year deal. All I ask for is a shot."Riggs has bounced around a lot during his career. He started with MB2 and went to Evernham when sponsor Valvoline switched teams. He then became a victim of an ownership change, as George Gillett bought EMS from Ray Evernham and told Riggs he wanted Canadian Patrick Carpentier in the No. 10. That's business. Off Riggs went to Haas, with high hopes that a union with Bootie Barker would prove fruitful. It's been a struggle.Now Riggs stands on the precipice of unemployment. There aren't many opportunities available for a guy who hasn't won and is perceived as a journeyman. "Frustrating" doesn't even begin to describe it."There's not many rides, at all," Riggs said. "In my opinion, I can only make lateral moves. If you make a lateral move you pray the elevator's going up, not down. "It worries me, but at the same time I have the same mindset I always had: I give 110 percent as a driver -- and in this day and age it's not just driving. It's your leadership to the team. Your attitude. As long as I give 110 percent, and no one can do a better job in all those areas, if something doesn't come forward or I don't get a chance to prove it, I won't have any regrets. "But with all that said, it completely [stinks]. It's so frustrating the way my hand's played out. I don't know which way to go."Not that he'd hand it all back. "I can't go back and change the decisions I made," he said. "I wish I could. I wish I could rewind and do some things different. But we all do. That's life. But I'm still so hungry. Every weekend I still want to go out there and stomp some ass."I hope he gets that chance.Stat of the week, courtesy of "NASCAR Now" stat man Chris Lees: Ryan Newman's pending departure from Penske Racing at the end of the 2008 season raises a question: Who was the last Daytona 500 winner to join a new team the season after his 500 win?The answer is Buddy Baker. Baker won the Daytona 500 in 1980 for Harry Rainer. He then left that team at season's end and joined Hoss Ellington on a part-time basis in 1981. Hoss Ellington is a great name.Marty, Referring to Tony Stewart -- why do most drivers like to drive for their own teams? MWR. SHR. Junior wanted more into DEI last year, etc. I always thought it was better business sense to race for someone else and have the race team on the side like Dale Sr. did. That way you have income instead of just expense. They announced that Stewart will become the highest-paid driver, but if you own half the company, what you are paid is half yours already, right? Couldn't Stewart have stayed with a winning team and still bought into a different race team?I do understand the conflict of interest with Chevy and Toyota, but if all he was doing was driving the car, couldn't you, as a race team owner, limit the knowledge you give your driver about how you get the cars faster? I never pictured drivers much as "corporate spies leaking vital secrets." If that were the case, MWR would have made BDR stronger. Help me out here. -- Brandon Averette, Lincolnton, N.C.The math is rather simple, Brandon: Stewart didn't pay 1 cent for half-ownership in a Sprint Cup Series organization. He was handed 50 percent equity. Imagine that. "Hey man! I have a $70 million business. You want half?"
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