Layne Riggs’ gamble pays off with NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national title

Layne Riggs’ gamble pays off with NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national title

Nothing has come easy for Layne Riggs from the moment his auto racing career began.

A veteran in late model stock car competition despite being just 20, the second-generation competitor from Bahama, North Carolina, has fought for every victory with a small operation, all while waiting for the right opportunity to follow in his father Scott Riggs’ footsteps as a driver in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions.

The decision to bet on himself by going for a NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series title paid off for Riggs, who joined a long list of notable national champions with a stellar season that saw him claim 16 victories at five tracks, as well as a track championship at Virginia’s South Boston Speedway.

Going for the national championship was challenging for Riggs on several fronts. He admitted being able to reflect on and cherish what he accomplished in 2022 with his team has been equal parts cathartic and validating.

“It’s been great to celebrate with my team and bask in our glory,” Riggs said. “In the moment when we were winning all the races, it was hard to celebrate anything, as we had to focus on the next day of racing. You couldn’t enjoy the time, but we had a huge team party, and it was great to share stories and celebrate what we did, especially since we’ll probably never do this again.”

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Even though he has a familiar last name, Riggs does not see himself much different than the blue-collar drivers who dominate short tracks along the East Coast.

Most of the crew members who assist the Riggs family with their late model stock car program are volunteers, all of whom have worked tirelessly to keep the cars competitive with other top-tier organizations that include JR Motorsports and Sellers Racing Inc.

Being a student at UNC Charlotte only served to complicate matters for Riggs as he poured every ounce of energy into defeating defending Weekly Series champion Peyton Sellers, but he managed to find the perfect balance by constantly communicating with his team about what he needed to be comfortable in his car.

Peyton Sellers (26) follows Layne Riggs (99) as they attempt to pass Chris Denny (2, partially hidden behind Riggs’ car) during the second race of twin 65-lap NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Late Model Stock Car Division races that highlighted the Halifax County Farm Bureau Championship Night event at South Boston Speedway on Sept. 4. (Joe Chandler/South Boston Speedway)
Layne Riggs (99) had to battle Peyton Sellers (26) all year for the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series title, with Riggs ultimately prevailing by four points. (Joe Chandler/South Boston Speedway)

The maturity and composure Riggs needed to stay focused amid his hectic schedule came about by perfecting his race craft against many talented competitors, which included current NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Josh Berry, Bobby McCarty, Deac McCaskill and Jared Fryar.

Without those people to lean on in his developmental period, Riggs believes he would never have gotten close to the Weekly Series crown.

“This past season served as my final exam for late model stock racing,” Riggs said. “I’ve learned so much from all the veterans out there, but I had to apply all the knowledge. You don’t really see that growth until you look back and see all the steps you’ve made, but every aspect of myself has gotten better.”

In the middle of his pursuit for the national championship, Riggs finally got the opportunity to make his NASCAR national series debut by signing a three-race deal with Halmar Friesen Racing in the Craftsman Truck Series.

Riggs wasted no time showing the broader NASCAR fan base the talent he possesses. During his first race at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, after starting 23rd, Riggs patiently climbed his way through the field and challenged many of the best drivers in the Truck Series before ultimately settling for a seventh-place finish.

The next two Truck Series appearances for Riggs saw him carry over the momentum from his performance at IRP. While he did not eclipse his career-best finish, Riggs qualified fourth at Richmond Raceway and second for the season finale at Phoenix Raceway, where he led five laps after passing eventual Truck Series champion Zane Smith shortly after the initial start.

Riggs is currently working on securing the necessary funding to compete in the Truck Series full-time in 2023. Details are still being sorted out, but Riggs hopes to at least get approval for the opener at Daytona International Speedway before seeing how the rest of the year turns out from a financial standpoint.

RELATED: Career stats for Layne Riggs

A more active presence in the Truck Series means Riggs will move on from the discipline that shaped him into the driver he is today, but he still plans to compete in a handful of late model stock car events when he has free time.

“I’ll probably do the Josh Berry schedule where I race [late model stocks] on off weekends,” Riggs said. “There won’t be a set schedule, so I obviously won’t be running for any championships, but you’ll definitely see me at some short tracks just having fun.”

With a national championship under his belt, Layne Riggs is preparing to embark on what he hopes will be a full NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule next year. (Joe Chandler/South Boston Speedway)

Riggs hopes the success and notoriety he enjoyed in 2022 is a positive sign for other blue-collar racers looking to break into NASCAR’s top ranks.

Throughout his late model stock car career, Riggs has come across plenty of drivers he knows would excel in NASCAR’s top series if given the right opportunity. Having been in that crowd himself, Riggs would love to see those same veterans follow a similar path, and he believes ongoing changes in the industry might one day allow them to do so.

For now, Riggs intends to represent the Southeast short track industry as both a Weekly Series champion and a Truck Series competitor. He anticipates a rigorous learning curve during his first year in the division, particularly when it comes to figuring out aerodynamics and going up against the diverse Truck Series roster.

“In the late model world, you have your select veterans that are always up at the front racing each other,” Riggs said. “When you go to the Truck Series, there are so many more of them. The best from the grassroots made it to the Truck Series, so there’s going to be a lot of competition. I felt like I was the best in my area, so I think I’m up to the task.”

Plenty of obstacles lie ahead for Riggs as he transitions into a new phase of his career, but he is ready to embrace the pending adversity and show that his national championship is the first of many NASCAR accomplishments to come.