tampabay.com

Qualifying run helps Riggs' profile

By BRANT JAMES and MIKE READLING
Published July 2, 2005


DAYTONA BEACH - Two days after finding out his major sponsor was leaving his team at the end of the season and minutes before he hit the track to qualify, Scott Riggs said he had to be a little more competitive to attract some sponsor attention. You can bet they know who he is now.

Riggs ran a lap of 185.418 mph, bested only by Tony Stewart , to earn a front-row starting position in today's Pepsi 400.

It is Riggs' second front-row appearance this season at Daytona International Speedway, quickly becoming his favorite track. In February he was fourth in the Daytona 500 after starting 12th.

The run came on the heels of Valvoline, on Wednesday, announcing it was leaving Riggs' MBV Racing team to join Ray Evernham Racing. That turns Ray Evernham ' s stable of Dodges into a three-car organization, joining Kasey Kahne and Jeremy Mayfield . The new car will sport virtually the same paint job Riggs runs. That might not be the only similarity.

Riggs said he has not talked to Evernham about switching teams but said officials at Valvoline have told him "they would like the opportunity for me to come with them." Evernham said he has not selected a driver, though he ruled out his 24-year-old ARCA driver, Erin Crocker , saying she probably wouldn't be ready for Nextel Cup that soon.

"I want the best driver available," Evernham said. "They don't have to be old or young, male or female. I just want someone who runs fast."

Riggs is under contract with MBV Motorsports, though their future is tenuous.

"The only thing keeping me from signing right here, right now with MBV is we have no sponsor for the (No.) 10 car," Riggs said. "So I need to see what they have to offer."

Evernham said the move to add another full-time team in 2006 was an

effort to "stay ahead of the curve" and better compete with the four- and five-car organizations of Rick Hendrick and Jack Roush , respectively.

Evernham said he had always been a fan of two-car teams, but advances by larger teams such as Roush and Hendrick, the only teams to win more than once this season, forced him to rethink that strategy.

"Multiple cars help you with your group IQ," Evernham said. "Your information base grows, you have more people and you have more tests."

FRANCE SPEAKS: NASCAR president Bill France made a rare public appearance during Busch Series qualifying, taking the opportunity to question Formula One officials and pronounce his own series almost set.

France said after tracks near New York City and Seattle are completed and added to the schedule the circuit would be "in pretty good shape." That pronouncement would seem to rule out possible races in Canada and Asia, both rumored to be future NASCAR venues.

"(With races in Seattle and New York) we would pretty much have the nation covered," said France, who balked at the idea of possibly expanding the 36-race schedule. Construction has not begun on either track.

During his wide-ranging chat, France stopped short of expressing disappointment in the way F1 officials handled a dispute over unsafe tires at the U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago, but said, "When you have fans coming from all over and everybody there, you have to run that race."

SPARK PLUGS: University of South Carolina (and former Florida) football coach Steve Spurrier is expected to be at the speedway today. ... Stewart is the 10th pole-sitter in the past 10 races. ... Boris Said (fourth) posted his first top-10 qualifying effort on an oval track in his seventh start. ... Kerry Earnhardt will line up 10th, his first career Top 10 start.