Riggs to make up for lost 2006 season

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Ryan McGee

NASCAR Images managing editor Ryan McGee gets you ready for Daytona Speedweeks — which begin Feb. 8 on SPEED — by counting down his top 20 drivers. Find out why McGee says Scott Riggs will move up from last year's 20th-place performance.

2006 Rewind

35 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 8 top tens, 2 poles, 1 DNQ, 20th in points

Scott Riggs started 2006 by making the move from then-low-budget MB2 Motorsports (now Mark Martin-led Ginn Racing) to take over the brand new third car at Evernham Motorsports and promptly failed to make the field for the Daytona 500.

The remainder of his season was a testament to just how important it is for a team to grab a starting spot in the Great American Race. The 36-year-old former Busch Series ace posted career highs in nearly every major statistical category and even managed to squeak his way into the top 20 in points, ahead of 13 drivers who started every race.

But what does everyone remember about Riggs' breakout season?

"That we didn't make the Daytona 500," he says with a laugh. "But anyone who really paid attention to us saw the improvement as the year went on. And don't short change the importance of running up front (in the season finale) at Homestead. We started on the front row, led a lap and finished seventh. Hopefully that momentum will carry right on over into Daytona and we can put last year behind us."

Why He Will Finish 18th

He'll make the 500 this year. The still-new rules protecting the top-shelf teams will make sure of that, but the question for Riggs won't be where he ranks within the garage as much as it where he ranks within his own team. Kasey Kahne is now and for the foreseeable future the No. 1 dog at Evernham Motorsports, a fact that seemed pretty clear even when former teammate Jeremy Mayfield was making The Chase and he was not.

When Mayfield left in a huff last fall, Riggs' performance made a visible jump. Over the final 13 races of the year, he racked up five top four starting spots, three top 10 finishes, and could have very easily won at Bristol, Charlotte, and Homestead.

So, with high-profile ace Elliott Sadler now in Mayfield's old ride, where does that leave the man from Bahama (pronounced Buh-HAY-muh), N.C.?

"Right where I was before," he insists. "Ray (Evernham) just doesn't let it work that way around here. We all have the same stuff, the same equipment, and if we want it, the same set-up. As long as we are all on the same page, there's no reason why we can't all win races."

The All-Telling, All-Knowing Stat: 93.9 percent

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Riggs led a career-best 132 laps in 2006. One hundred twenty four of the 132 circuits at the point were scored at the Lowe's Motor Speedway, or 93.9 percent. The remaining eight laps were spread out over three tracks — one at Pocono in June, six at Kansas in October, and one at Homestead. For the record, he led 90 at Charlotte over Memorial Day weekend and 34 when we returned to LMS in October. Which brings us to ...

Fantasy Lock: Charlotte

He was denied two potential wins at Charlotte in one season, seeing two pole-winning runs done in by a disastrous pit stop in May and an ill-handling car in October. Both races were won by teammate Kahne. Still, his car was strong early and often in both events and if he can put together second halves to match his firsts, a Lowe's season sweep isn't out of the realm of possibility.

Ryan McGee is the managing editor at NASCAR Images He can be reached at his e-mail address:
Tagged: Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield

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