National Championship Pushed Riggs to the Max

The second generation racer hopes to follow dad to Cup Series career.


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As has been the case for each of the past six years, Layne Riggs spent the penultimate Saturday of September in Ridgeway Virginia but not in his usual seat inside the No. 99 Late Model Stock.

Instead, the newly crowned NASCAR Weekly Series National Champion was watching the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 from a suite, nursing a shrimp cocktail and playing radio analyst for a bit, basking in the glory of the most challenging summer of his career.

Challenging but rewarding in earning a prize targeted in April when Riggs decided to start chasing Weekly Series points at South Boston Speedway.

"It's a lot different than tour racing," Riggs said, alluding to the five years he has spent chasing a CARS Tour championship. "It takes a lot more traveling (and) a lot less sleep. It comes down to having more wins at the end of the season and who was the dominant team.

"I think at the end of the season, we proved that we were. I'm really proud of everybody that backed me. All of our guys have been doing it a long time but they're volunteer. That does nothing but help me and my confidence. Dragging me around the country, they dug deep and got us to this point."

To his point, his season was no longer about being issued a schedule and simply posting the more or less best average finish over a dozen-plus races, as is the case in CARS Tour. Instead, this summer, Riggs was making phone calls to see which tracks would have the full field car count needed to earn NASCAR points.

Simultaneously, he is having to keep track of what other teams across the country were doing in their Division I competition, and occasionally challenging Peyton Sellers directly when it became clear that the crown ran through their head-to-head competition.

And that meant the obligatory national championship tactics perceived field filling and withdrawing, something Peyton Sellers has become a master of in recent years and something Riggs had to learn on the fly, something that didn’t come natural to his team.

It wasn’t always about performance on the track.

"It was tough and that was part of our learning experience," Riggs said. "We did have to worry about it and where we needed to go. It was nice sometimes because we could go to Hickory sometime, Dominion or Wake. Wherever if they had car count, I could have my pick of where I wanted to go race. So that was nice and different. It was a change for me.

"Our competitors have been doing that for so many years. I had to learn this year how to do it. It's a chess game, mind games and it was something we had to learn how to be good at it."

Riggs didn't even plan to chase a NASCAR National Championship this year. He finished 26th (mechanical) in the CARS Tour opener at Caraway and not even finishes of third and fourth had him in immediate contention. He went to South Boston for a one-off weekend at South Boston on opening night and swept both races.

He went back two weeks later and swept those races too, and now he's off to the NASCAR Weekly Series championship race, and a race he was found to have won last week.

"Our success at South Boston is what got us to where we are," Riggs said. "I can't remember how many we won at South Boston. That was awesome. Thanks to Chase and everyone at the track. They did a great job and was fair. And then we had to venture out to Hickory, Wake County, Dominion and even Motor Mile. The four tracks we won at, I was proud to say we won at all of them. It shows the diversity of our race team and that we can win anywhere we go."

And one of the reasons Riggs, and his dad, Cup Series veteran Scott made the decision to chase NASCAR points was the endgame. Riggs has already made two Truck Series starts this year for Halmar Friesen Racing and hopes to be full-time in some capacity next season.

Similar to 2020 Weekly Series champion Josh Berry, Riggs saw a pathway to a national touring career through the spotlight of winning the national title.

"It definitely does help me in our future plans," Riggs said. "My goal is to be a professional NASCAR racer, at the top levels, and to add this to my resume as the best short track driver in the country helps us with all the conversations we're having.

"We want to be full-time in the Truck Series next season. Just finding the right partners to get us there is where we're at right now."

How close are they?

"I don't have a percentage for next season and I don't have my hopes up but phone calls are coming in and phone calls are coming out and the more people that know what we're trying to put together will get us closer to where we're trying to go," Riggs said. "I'm so thankful for dad for being behind me on the track, off the track as well."

Full circle, Riggs didn't enter the Martinsville 300 on Saturday because, simply stated, they were mentally, physically and resource exhausted. They've gone from racing 20 times a year to 47 and counting.

"Well, at the end of the season, we ran ourselves so thin running all these races," Riggs said. We had to run multiple nights a week, twin races. 47 races a season has been really tough. So I wanted to take the championship in and really enjoy it.

"We weren't going to be 100 percent prepared coming to Martinsville and when you come here, you have to work on your car for weeks and go through every nut and bolt. We didn't have the time to do that and so we wanted to bask in the glory a little bit and didn't want to stress ourselves to feel like a 10th place team."

The grandfather clock can wait.