Riggs was logical choice for Evernham

Updated: August 28, 2005, 12:02 AM ET
Associated Press

Scott Riggs
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Scott Riggs was hired Saturday to drive a third car for Evernham Motorsports, the highest-profile job of his racing career.

Riggs is in his second season of Nextel Cup racing and his contract is up at the end of the year with MBV Motorsports, where he has just six top-10 finishes in 58 starts. But he had several factors working in his favor when Evernham began searching for a teammate to Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne.

First, Riggs was on the short list of drivers Evernham considered before he hired Kahne two seasons ago. Then just last month, Valvoline agreed to be part-owner of Evernham's new team -- a move that ended its relationship as sponsor of Riggs' MBV team.

So Riggs became a natural fit.

"He and I have been talking about working together for some time now," Evernham said. "Scott has shown he can be a winner … and we look forward to getting him to the winner's circle next season."

Riggs had been approached by several teams in the garage about openings for next season, but stressed several times that his age made it critical he get into a good car now.

"At 34 years old, I still haven't proven what my capabilities are," he said. "I needed a team that was on the way up, that was deep enough and had no worries about the strength of the team. I don't have the time or the patience to go with a team that needed a few years to get going."

Rusty's farewell
Bristol Motor Speedway honored Rusty Wallace before the start of the Sharpie 500, bringing tears to the driver's eyes at his favorite race track.

Wallace, who is retiring at the end of the season, has always considered Bristol the best track on the NASCAR circuit. He scored his first victory here, later won his 50th career race here, and leads all active drivers with nine victories.

Track officials announced that a 5,000-seat tower would be called the Rusty Wallace Tower beginning next season, then had the fans sitting there hold up cards that spelled "Thanks Rusty" as he passed by on a commemorative lap around the track.

Wallace was also presented with a 150-pound replica of the speedway.

"I've been to a lot of racetracks and got some nice awards, but this just blows them all away," Wallace said, tears rolling down his cheeks.

LeBron's flava
NBA star LeBron James became the latest athlete to cross over into NASCAR when his likeness was painted on the hood of Bobby Labonte's car for Saturday night's race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The paint scheme is a promotion of POWERade's new James-inspired drink, Flava23, and James spent the day touring the track and soaking up the scene with Labonte. He later treated fans to a jump-shooting display, firing shots at a hoop erected at the top of Bristol's 36-degree banked corner.

Although his only previous experience with NASCAR was the numerous racing-themed video games he plays, James said he felt comfortable at the track.

"I can adapt to any atmosphere," he said. "The only thing here is I am very much taller than everybody else."

James and an entourage of four identically clad friends moved with ease through the garage area, stopping to ask questions, soak in the sights, and have Labonte sign the back of their shirts.

Labonte presented James with an authentic helmet, and James reciprocated by inviting the driver and his son to be his guests at a Cleveland Cavaliers game.

"We've got to support each other now," James quipped.

Labonte has a variety of associate sponsors in his career, most recently Mel Gibson's movie "Passion of the Christ" and now James' hip-hop themed beverage. The driver known for his dry humor quipped that his winning personality attracted all the companies.

"You guys all think I am square," he deadpanned. "But there must be something deep inside of me."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press