The No. 10 team was one of several after Riggs' services
For Riggs, a successful transition from the NASCAR Busch Series to itstop division is all about respect, both giving it and getting it. "It'searning respect, trying to learn all your competitors and how they'regoing to race you on the track, who is going to give you respect off thebat or whose respect you have to earn," he said. "How do you earn thatrespect? Do you do it by racing them hard or by being sensible, givingthem plenty of room and racing them very clean?"
When the opportunity to move up came at the end of the '03 season, Riggsjumped at it. "I had hoped it would come," he said of the call from teamowner James Rocco. "I thought I was capable of competing at this level,but ultimately I had to wait until the right people figured that out.And I thank everyone at Valvoline Racing for making it happen."
It wasn't as if the call to Cup wasn't in Riggs' future. His name waslinked to nearly every open seat in the series, and he finally decidedon the No. 10.
While building his career, Riggs was a regular in Victory Lane on shorttracks in North Car
"Other teams told me, 'We've got the best team,' or 'We've got the bestequipment,' or 'I know we're going to be successful,' " Riggs said. "Ifelt like this team was really the most honest. They said, 'We've gotstrengths and we've got weaknesses, and what we want to do is work tochange those weaknesses.' They wanted to build this team and wanted meto be a part of that building process versus me just stepping into thedriver seat. Besides, what other team's sponsor is on the car, in thecar, and owns the car?"
Valvoline, which has been a big-time sponsor in NASCAR for quite a longtime, believed in Riggs and his potential. "So far, I couldn't have everimagined such a prestigious sponsor that's been in the sport for so longcould ever be so down to earth and so involved in their racing," Riggssaid. "They truly are what they say they are. They learn from the trackto make their products better on the shelf. They stand behind theirracers and their teams.
"They are the only sponsor in the sport that owns a race team, so tohave a product that is in the car they try to develop from racing, as asponsor and owner, it just shows the dedication and determination theyhave to make sure this team is successful. On top of that, they havebeen over the top as far as being down to earth with me. They reallywelcomed me in as part of the family. I never knew that a sponsor couldbe so loving to its new family member."
In the wholesale changes that saw the departure of incumbent driverJohnny Benson, crewchiefs James Ince and Jay Guy, and a sizablepercentage of the crew, Riggs and his Busch Series crewchief DougRandolph have managed to smooth the waters and provide some stability toa team that won a race in 2002 but had a best finish of Fifth in 2003.
"This is the first year I've ever had a crewchief two years in a row, atany level," Riggs said with a laugh. "It's the first time I haven't runthem off."
Riggs noted that one of the biggest changes was to get used to thelonger distances the Cup drivers run, compared to Busch and Trucks."I've done a lot of training [during the off-season] to really preparemyself physically for the longer races," he said. "If testing andDaytona are an example, I feel like I'm going to feel better in the carthan ever before. If you feel stronger physically, you're going to bestronger mentally."