NASCAR: Riggs’ risk rewarded with spot in 500

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 13, 2009

By Mark Long
Associated PressDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ó Scott Riggs could have waited for a better opportunity. He could have held out for a fully sponsored NASCAR ride or something that made more financial sense.
Instead, he took a chance with new car owner Tommy Baldwin.
It paid off Thursday when Riggs qualified for the Daytona 500, giving the sport’s premier event a true underdog story.
“It’s very satisfying for us considering how fast we’ve come together, all the things that we’ve put together in one little shop, the guys there working that are volunteers,” said Riggs, who was eighth in the first qualifier. “I don’t think anyone has any high expectations of us. We want to under-promise and over-deliver.”
Baldwin, a former crew chief and competition director who lost his job when Bill Davis Racing folded last season, decided to start Tommy Baldwin Racing in early January.
He bought equipment, race cars and parts from Bill Davis, Bobby Hamilton Racing and Red Bull Racing, then spent five weeks piecing together the No. 36 Toyota with the help of a dozen volunteers.
Baldwin secured sponsorship for the first three races and plans to keep racing as long as possible. He knows making the Daytona 500 could lead to more opportunities.
“It’s a great start to the year and a great momentum booster for our race team and everybody involved,” Baldwin said. “It lets everybody know we’re for real. I’m going to every single race. I’m going to run every single race until I run out of money, and I’m going to load up and go to the next one until I can find some partners and people that want to come on board.
“I’m not sitting here and begging anybody for money. I want to help people who come on board with us.”
Riggs, who had a surprising fourth-place finish in the 2005 Daytona 500, spent the first four years of his Cup career driving for Ray Evernham and last season with Haas-CNC. This is, by far, a much tougher challenge.
“It’s not the ideal situation,” Riggs said. “I don’t think Tommy or myself looked at last year and said, ‘Hey, let’s go race next year on a shoestring budget with no major sponsors and see if we can race all the races.’ That’s not what we want. I think we both have the kind of mentality that we are backed into the corner, and we are here to try to prove ourselves and fight our way out.”