After a rough start to his 2019 season, CARS Tour competitor Layne Riggs sees Saturday night’s trip to the beaches of Carteret County as an opportunity to restore his confidence and return to victory lane in the Solid Rock Carriers Crystal Coast 125 presented by WITN-TV and Moore’s Barbeque.
Riggs, 17, from Bahama, North Carolina, returns to Carteret County Speedway after a pair of fifth place finishes in the CARS Tour, and he has plenty of reasons to be optimistic. After leading much of last year’s race at Carteret Count, he was involved in an incident on lap 102, and ultimately had to settle for a second-place finish.
That second-place finish is his worst career finish at Carteret County Speedway. In three starts, he has led 312 of the 400 laps he’s completed and has pocketed over $23,000 in first place winnings.
“I think I’m really good at Carteret, showing my stats,” Riggs said. “I feel like it’s the first flat track I was ever successful at. I know it very well and I have a lot of confidence there, and luckily, our setups and programs have done well at these tracks. Going to places like Langley and Ace and learning has given me confidence going back to Carteret. I’m pretty confident going into this weekend.”
Confidence is exactly what the second-generation driver feels he needs after what he considers to be the lowest point of his career. Riggs suffered four DNFs in the first five races of the 2019 CARS Late Model Stock Tour season but was able to pick up his first top-five of the season at Langley (Va.) Speedway, a flat track that shares many characteristics with Carteret County, back in June.
“We haven’t had a win all year,” Riggs remarked. “I feel like, recently, our car’s been getting better and we’ve had better finishes, so tying all that in with a win would be a huge confidence booster. Not a win, we ended up getting 5 DNFs in a row, I’ve never had that many in one season before. The lowest of the low in my racing career has been this season and I feel like we’re turning it around. A win would be good for me, my team, my sponsors, for now and the future.”
Along with looking for his first win of the season, and redemption after last year’s runner-up result, Riggs also has a personal reason to win.
Riggs was distantly related to Bobby Day Watson, the visionary of Carteret County Speedway who passed away last year. However, throughout the 2018 season, he became close to Watson – and ultimately won at the final race Watson would see before passing away.
“I knew that Bobby was a family member,” Riggs explained. “Never was really close to him, but as we ran at Carteret, I got to know him, and we became good friends. It’s a tragedy that he passed away. I know that he was proud of what we did. He did a great job with his racetrack and hopefully that legacy continues.
“Before the [CARS Tour] race, he came and said, ‘y’all better do good.’”
Last year’s CARS Tour race at Carteret County was one of the most intriguing races of the 2019 campaign. Riggs started on the pole and dominated until the 102nd lap of the race when he spun off the front bumper of Josh Berry. Riggs was able to recover after a single 360-degree loop without losing the lead, but simultaneous to his recovery, the lapped car of Sarah Cornett-Ching ended up spinning in front of Berry – taking Berry out of the race.
While Riggs thought he had recovered with the lead, CARS Tour ruled when the caution came out that Riggs’ spin was the cause of the caution and, per the series rulebook, sent him to the rear. Riggs ended up racing his way back up to second in the race’s final stint.
While Riggs harbored some resentment over the contact at Carteret, which he repaid Berry for in a race at Hickory Motor Speedway later in August, Riggs feels he and Berry still have respect for each other and hopes to be contending for wins with Berry, and reigning series champion Bobby McCarty, in Saturday night’s Crystal Coast 125.
“Ever since I started racing with Josh, I always feel like he’s been hard and aggressive, and I thought that could have been one of the breaking points,” Riggs remarked. “I’m going to race Josh the way I always have, as well as any competitor. Me and Josh respect each other, as well as me and Bobby. We’re all pretty tough competition and running up front, even though I feel like I haven’t had the opportunity to run up front this season.
“I feel like we’ve got our program good enough to be back up there with the top-three CARS Tour frontrunners. I think we’ve always raced each other pretty hard and I hope we do the same at Carteret.”
While another headline victory at Carteret County Speedway is Riggs’ next goal, Riggs also hopes for some redemption in upcoming races at Langley (Va.) Speedway on July 13th and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in October. In recent races at both Martinsville, last fall, and Langley, last month, Riggs had a supporting role in aggressive battles for the win – but ultimately was denied in both races.
“We had a lot of opportunities last year, and good cars,” Riggs remarked. “We’re going back to places like Carteret, Langley and Martinsville looking to get redemption.”
Riggs also noted that the setup he ran at Langley in June will be the exact same setup he runs in the Crystal Coast 125 on Saturday and in the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway on July 20th – races he expects to win.
Saturday’s Crystal Coast 125 will go green at 7pm. General admission seats will be available on race day for just $20 while kids 10 and under are admitted free of charge. For distant fans, the Crystal Coast 125 will be streamed live on the CARS Tour TV subscription service.