Riggs' Cup future uncertain despite runner-up finish

Originally Published: August 22, 2005
By Rupen Fofaria | Special to ESPN.com

After a fourth-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500, Scott Riggs and his No. 10 Chevrolet crew were insistent that the accomplished Busch Series driver was ready to compete on the Nextel Cup circuit in his sophomore season.

Riggs placed 29th in the points standings his rookie Cup season, a wake-up call for the driver who never finished outside the top 10 in the Busch Series. But rather than doom-and-gloom over the offseason, Riggs and Co. lived in the garage putting together what they believed to be more competitive race cars -- and Daytona was encouraging.

But heading into Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway, Riggs had only two more top-10 finishes and had dropped to 31st in the points standings. The North Carolina native's future with the No. 10 Chevy is uncertain. And though Sunday's second-place finish cooled things off a bit, Riggs said it did more for the team's confidence in putting together cars that can contend than it did to resolve his blurry future.

"What I can tell you right now is that nothing is in stone yet," Riggs said. "I'm sure that things will be happening pretty quick here the next week or two. This run doesn't dictate what's going to happen for me next year. This run just helps all the guys with their morale and keeping their chins up and knowing we're doing the right kind of things that we need to do and just have to put ourselves in the position to get these kind of finishes."

Almost everything that needed to go right, went right. At a track and in a race where fuel mileage was at a premium, the No. 10 was riding on rails. Riggs' crew had several options available on pit strategy because the car was willing.

"Actually, the way the car was driving [at the end] was the best way for it for fuel mileage," Riggs said. "We had pretty good fuel mileage the entire race and I continued to do that and a little luck went our way."

Getting some good luck was particularly nice for a team such as Riggs', which must gamble to climb to the top. Riggs and Co. gambled in the past a lot, and came up snake eyes almost every time. Sunday was proof the team wasn't cursed.

"This team has taken a lot of chances several times during [races]," he said. "The only way we could get track position is to take a gamble. And, like I said, we've taken gambles like that a lot in the Valvoline Chevrolet. Always seems that cautions fall if we try to pit early, if we're trying to get track position under green, the caution falls."

On Sunday, Riggs was waiting for the caution to fall when he pitted out of turn, but "somehow it didn't and we ended up with a good finish," he said.

It was just what the team needed amid the settled confusion coming into the race. Riggs' future, race setups, race strategy -- everything about the team was murky. Even the team's struggles were confounding, given that the car was handling well during several events.

"We've had some decent runs lately -- like Indy and Pocono -- but haven't been able to bring home the finishes," Riggs said. "All we can do is keep on digging and hope that our break is just around the corner."

And there it was, in Brooklyn, Mich. Riggs watched a streaking Jeremy Mayfield take the checkered flag, but the exhale and relief the No. 10 team experienced with its runner-up performance put a winning smile on Riggs' face.

Rupen Fofaria is a freelance writer living in Chicago and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at rfofaria@espnspecial.com.

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