Riggs wins first Busch race in his seventh start

Sunday, April 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GLADEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Scott Riggs led only once for the final 47 laps Saturday as he got his first NASCAR Busch series victory in just his seventh start on the circuit at the Pepsi 300, tying a record for the quickest victory by a rookie.

Johnny Rumley also won in his seventh start, in 1993.

Riggs became the first rookie to win on the Busch circuit this season as crew chief Harold Holly gambled in the final pit stop, taking only two tires and gas.

``What a great pit stop,'' Riggs said. ``They shot us out of there about fourth. The guys in front of us didn't have the tires. I knew I just had to take my time and get by them.''

He took the lead on lap 179 and started stretching out his lead in his Ford in winning with an average speed of 111.038 mph.

``I was just praying we didn't have a caution there at the end,'' he said. ``Those guys who did have four tires that last stop would really be coming.''

Jack Sprague took four tires in his final stop and finished second for a second consecutive week. He was followed by Bobby Hamilton Jr. who came from a lap down for his best-ever Busch finish, Scott Wimmer and Jason Keller as Fords filled three of the top five positions.

Sprague admitted he thought the race was 250 laps on the 1.33-mile, D-shaped oval. He found out he was wrong with 55 laps remaining out of 225.

``Two weeks in a row, we got two-tired to death,'' Sprague said, referring to Jeff Purvis winning the rain-shortened O'Reilly 300 at Texas Motor Speedway after a similar tire change. ``It's not the end of the world.''

Sprague, the winningest driver ever on the Craftsman Truck Series, did take over the points lead. But he said he's not thinking about the points race after spending the past seven years worrying about his standings while winning three season titles.

``This is a whole new experience, but these guys learn pretty quick. We're not far off,'' he said.

Riggs won on this track last August, taking the Craftsman Truck race as one of his four victories in that series. He credited his crew, which won the 2000 Busch title with Jeff Green, for helping him win so quickly after starting the race third.

``I knew it was going to be coming with these guys,'' Riggs said. ``If I didn't, they'd get rid of me. They're used to winning five or six races a year. They were hungry to get back to Victory Lane just like I was to prove myself.''

The concrete track debuted last year with a series of crashes due to a slick spot in Turn 2, which officials repaired shortly after that race.

Not Saturday.

They ran a much faster race with only seven cautions for 54 laps, and the first one was due to rain on one end of the track. The collisions had nothing to do with the concrete surface.

Ashton Lewis hit the wall in Turn 4 on lap 81. Hank Parker Jr. blamed Lewis for trying to retaliate for that by spinning him out in the same area on lap 134, and Lewis was black flagged by NASCAR.

Greg Biffle, who won this race as a rookie last year in his 10th Busch start, finished 33rd after crashing into the wall near the start line when Randy LaJoie got him loose on lap 57.