2006 Ride: No. 10 Evernham Motorsports Dodge
2006 Primary Sponsors: Valvoline, Stanley Tools
2006 Owner: James Rocco
2006 Crew Chief: Rodney Childers
2006 Stats: 35 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 8 top 10s, 20th in points
High Point: By the time the series hit Bristol in August, Riggs’s season was already showing signs of success after earning five top-10 finishes to battle his way back from an early season Daytona DNQ. When Bristol rolled around, though, Riggs was determined to do what he could to get his team to victory lane, even if that meant ruffling the feathers of a four-time Nextel Cup champion. Riggs qualified 23rd, but in the closing laps was working to get a top-five finish… or better.
That meant racing Jeff Gordon side-by-side and not allowing himself to be intimidated. In the end, Riggs ended up fourth – one spot better than Gordon. Following the race the two drivers had words, and in his interview Gordon seemed surprised and a little annoyed that Riggs was up there racing with him. That simple acknowledgement from the Rainbow Warrior, though, was a positive sign that Riggs was making his presence known in Nextel Cup.
Low Point: Being with a brand-new team and having no 2005 points to fall back on, Riggs went to Daytona needing to make the field on speed or in the Duel 150 qualifying races. Unfortunately, in a field of 58 he recorded only the 44th-fastest time after experiencing mechanical problems, and the No. 10 car struggled in the qualifying race the following Thursday, causing Riggs to miss his first Daytona 500 in four attempts. That put him at a severe disadvantage early on in the new team’s quest to stay within the Top 35 in owner points and secure a locked in spot for every race.
Summary: After missing the first race of 2006, many thought Riggs’s season would be a disaster. However, he came right back the following week at California, qualifying 14th and finishing 19th. He scored his first top-10 finish a few weeks later, with a seventh-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway, and ended the season with eight top 10s – including a season-best fourth-place finish at Bristol.
Riggs also earned a spot in the 2007 Bud Shootout, picking up two poles while gathering five front-row starts for the season. When all was said and done, Riggs ended the year 20th in the final points standings, finishing ahead of drivers such as former champions Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett and rookies Reed Sorenson and JJ Yeley, all of whom qualified for the entire 36-race season.
2007 Outlook: Considering how well Riggs performed in and finished off 2006, good things can be expected of Riggs and his team in 2007. This time around, the No. 10 car is guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500, and Riggs can focus more on getting himself and the car ready to run for the win instead of just making the show. Riggs often ran better than he finished in ’06, and hopefully he learned a lot of lessons that will make him even stronger in 2007, his second year with Evernham Motorsports.
If the team continues to progress at the level they did in ’06, expect big things from them in the coming season, because they have a serious shot of contending for many wins.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: B
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