Asked what he thought of those uninformed sources who believe race cardrivers are not athletes, Riggs was typically straightforward. "Peoplewho say that are people who have never strapped in a race car and haveno idea what they are talking about," he quipped. "I started motocrossracing when I was 13 years old, and that's the second-most physicallydemanding sport in the world. By being such a physical sport, it helpedme physically in the car. People don't realize how many g's we pull,what kind of temperatures we have to fight in the race car, the stresslevel, the tension level, and the endurance level we have to maintain inlong races. Anyone who says you don't have to be in shape and that it'snot an athletic sport has never strapped in, and I challenge them to arace anywhere, anytime."

Another change for Riggs was that Goodyear made a softer tire for theNextel Cup Series in 2004, and that changed the handling characteristicssomewhat.

"The good part is that the Cup car is a very good cross between a Buschcar and a Truck," Riggs said. "It has a long wheelbase and lots ofhorsepower like a Truck does, and it also has the aerodynamics of aBusch car. I feel like I have had the best of both worlds, the bestmixture of training that I could have by driving the Truck Series almostas long as I did the Busch car, so I have a good baseline to put it allback together for the Cup car."

One might think that since Riggs comes from a short-track background,he'd be eager to get to the bullrings. Apparently, that's not the case.

"I don't really have a preference," said the two-time track champion atSouthern National Speedway in Kenly, North Carolina. "It doesn't matteranymore. I like tracks that we go to where we have a good car and can becompetitive. I really don't have favorites or ones that I dislike. Isort of broke that the first year I started racing Trucks and on throughthe first year I drove the Busch cars. I had a lot of tracks that I feltgood at and felt like we were going to do well on, and then we'd go backthere and not do very well. Then I would have tracks that I didn't likeand had never done well on, and we would go back the next year and winthe race.

"I learned that it's all about how good your car is that weekend at thattrack. I don't really care if it's a short track or a big track--whereverwe can have a good car and be competitive, lead some laps, and hopefullywin some races."

Given the success of some of the more recent "young guns" in the Cupseries, Riggs balks a bit at being labeled as such. "Well, when you lookat some of the other rookies, I'm not really a young gun . . . I guessI'm more of a middle-aged gun," said the 33-year-old Riggs.

Riggs has the advantage of having raced against a lot of the Cup driversin both the Truck Series and Busch Series. "I think it's good for me tohave raced in the past with a lot of the Cup guys," he says. "You alwayshave to learn your competition. I feel like I have a pretty good ideaabout a lot of the guys, how they race you, what their thought processesare, and how to race them on the track, because I've raced them on theTruck circuit and in the Busch cars. Those guys, knowing them and havinga little more history with them, I probably feel a little morecomfortable with them because I know what to expect from them."

As a Busch Series rookie in 2002, Riggs earned his first pole and wonhis first race in his first seven races in ppc Racing's Nesquik machine.He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and finished 10th in theseries points. He was also voted Most Popular Driver. In 2003 he wasSixth in the final points.

In his first full season as a Craftsman Truck Series driver, he won fiveraces, finished Fifth in the points, and finished in the Top 5 on 14occasions. He had raced three quarters of a season in 2000, earningeight Top 10 finishes in 17 races and finishing 20th in points.

Judging by his record in the Trucks and Busch Series, it won't be longbefore everyone else knows just what to expect from this "middle-agedgun."