At just 20 years old, Layne Riggs is talented beyond his years. The son of former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series race winner and longtime NASCAR Cup Series competitor Scott Riggs became the youngest ever NASCAR Advance Auto Weekly Racing Series National Champion this season.
For Riggs, the historic feat of becoming the youngest-ever National Champion in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series wasn’t expected. Not because Riggs wasn’t confident in his driving abilities, but simply because the plan was not to run the full schedule.
“At first we weren’t even planning on running for the National Championship,” Riggs admitted to TobyChristie.com. “We didn’t decide that until about a month or two [into the season].
“We went to South Boston for the first race and we were like, ‘Hey, we have to beat Peyton Sellers, he’s really good. He wins here all the time.’ The first weekend there, we won the first two races. I was like, ‘Wow, this is incredible.’ We said, ‘Let’s just come back next week and just see if we can do that again.’ Bam! Came back the next week and won the next two.”
After the fevered start to the season, Riggs and his father started thinking they should possibly shift to a full-time effort. After several other big names in late-model racing shared the same thoughts, it was on for Riggs.
“I had a lot of people, the likes of past [NASCAR Weekly Racing Series] National Champions Lee Pulliam, Josh Berry and such they came to me — peers of mine that I ran in the CARS Tour Series with that have moved on and done their own thing — they said I was in such [a position] for success, that I would be crazy not to try to run for the thing.
“That’s when the team collectively decided that it would be a tall task to do with all of the traveling and racing that we do, but we made it happen,” Riggs recalled.
For Riggs, his team this season consisted of him, his father, and a loyal contingent of volunteer help. Riggs is thankful to be able to work alongside his father, but does admit that sometimes there are pros and cons in working with family.
“It can be good and bad. Working together all the time and having such a tight relationship we can talk about whatever and we can read each other’s minds sometimes, but at the same time being together and reading each other’s minds all the time can be a little stressful and a little tough,” Riggs explained. “But it’s working together and he pours his heart and soul into it. We both have so much passion for the sport and for our success. I couldn’t thank him more for what he does at home. He sweats and works in the shop every single day of the week. I wish I could work with him more right now this time of year, but being in school keeps us apart more than we want to be.”
While the decision to run full-time had been made, Riggs still had no idea about the historical importance of his potential National Championship run as Riggs didn’t even know he was younger than the former youngest Weekly Series National Champion — Peyton Sellers (won the National Championship at 21 years old in 2005) — who he actually defeated for the championship this season.
“It was really tough, but in the end, being the youngest winner is something that we didn’t even realize until we had already won it,” Riggs said.
Now, Riggs joins a prestigious list of former National Champions that include Sellers, Josh Berry (current NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 contender), Lee Pulliam, Phillip Morris, Ted Christopher, and NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominee Larry Phillips.
It’s a lot for a young racer to take in, but Riggs, who has a calm demeanor and seems uber-humble, is just happy to have his name in the book.
“Just glad I could get my name in the record book with such legends,” Riggs stated with sincerity.
While Riggs has been a mainstay in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour, winning six races between the age of 14 and 19, and in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series over the last several years, he has also impressed in his initial foray into the NASCAR National Series.
The North Carolina native started 23rd in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park back in July. In an ultra-competitive field, Riggs took the second Halmar Friesen Racing entry — No. 62 — to an incredible run.
The young rookie looked like a poised veteran as he kept his Toyota Tundra clean all race long, and after getting a free pass on lap 121 to get back on the lead lap, Riggs came to life. The youngster would go on to score a seventh-place finish in his Truck Series debut.
Just behind Riggs in the final running order that night were Ty Majeski (current Truck Series Championship 4 contender), Matt Crafton (three-time NASCAR Truck Series champion), and John Hunter Nemechek (13-career NCWTS victories).
Riggs would show up for the very next NASCAR Truck Series event, this time at Richmond Raceway. And he didn’t disappoint there either. While Riggs ultimately faded to a 19th-place finish in the race at the 0.750-mile short track, he opened many eyes with a stirring fourth-place qualifying run.
This weekend in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway, Riggs will make his third-career start. He’ll have sponsorship from Ram Jack Foundation Repair, a partnership that will include a television ad during the race on FS1.
For a regional racer trying to make it to the next level, the ad campaign is a huge deal.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Riggs buzzed. “In just a couple of starts, I’m able to have the opportunity to be on the face of FS1 for a couple of seconds. It’s really cool that Ram Jack did this. They really wanted to step up and really be involved. Use the activation to try to involve everybody in the partnership and them coming into NASCAR. Thank you to everybody that made it happen.”
While many young talents in the sport today attempt to circumvent the NASCAR Truck Series in an effort to expedite their journey to the NASCAR Cup Series, Riggs says he feels the Truck Series is just as competitive as the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
“I feel like nowadays, the Truck and Xfinity level is close to the same tier,” Riggs explained. “I feel like Xfinity has a little more professionalism in it and higher teams like JR Motorsports and such. But at the same time, I feel like the Truck Series has almost as much competition.”
While Riggs says he wouldn’t turn down a NASCAR Xfinity Series ride if a team came calling, he is currently enjoying his path, which mirrors the one taken by his father through the NASCAR National Series ranks.
“If I had the opportunity to do either [NASCAR Trucks or Xfinity], I would do either one that arose. I feel like the Truck Series is where my dad went first and made his name then got his ride in the Xfinity Series driving the Nesquik car. I just feel like so far I’ve followed his path,” Riggs stated. “I raced four-cylinder mini stocks at the local level, then late model, and now onto the Truck Series. Same kind of path that he took to make his success. I just wanted to make the same route, it worked pretty well for him.”
Riggs also says in addition to mirroring his father’s path hopefully all the way to the NASCAR Cup Series, running the Truck Series provides him a platform to make starts in an effort to gain approval for a NASCAR license at all types of tracks. And at the end of the day, Riggs really would love to run for a Truck Series championship.
“So far, I have had an opportunity to Halmar Friesen in the Truck Series. That’s the first step I need to go to, especially with getting the licenses and getting the approvals to run everywhere,” Riggs explained. “You do kind of have to run the Truck Series first. And the first race we had we were so successful. Just get out there and get known. I feel like that’s somewhere I want to run full-time and run for a championship.”
When you talk to him, you get a sense that Riggs is a truly grounded individual. He doesn’t seem cocky or arrogant. He feels like a person that keeps his head down and continues to work on improving his craft. It’s a massive contrast to some of the young drivers that have come up the NASCAR ladder in recent years.
Riggs, who has clawed for every opportunity, truly gets it. He understands every facet of the impact of his decisions on the racetrack.
“I feel like I appreciate what I did more than some others. I work on my own late models every day when I can when I’m not at school at UNC Charlotte working on school work. When I’m home, I’m working on the race car. I understand every part of it,” Riggs said. “I understand the nuts and bolts of it. Everything that goes into it. Hard work and dedication. Blood, sweat, and tears. I know that it’s not an easy route.
“I didn’t want to take the hard way, but that was my only opportunity to be able to make it into the NASCAR National Series. Very thankful for the opportunity that I have. I feel it is a throwback to the old days, where your performance on the race track and showing your talent off at the local level will attract a big-time sponsor to be able to move up. I feel like that is something the sport has gone away from, that we’re really missing nowadays. A lot of talented drivers aren’t getting their opportunities just because of financial reasons. Very glad some people and companies are seeing that and they’re wanting to help.”
Riggs has taken the road less traveled on his path to making starts in the NASCAR National Series, and he is proud of his own growing fanbase. Sure, some are wearing his gear because they followed his father’s racing career, but Riggs is fully focused on building his own footprint in the sport.
“Especially this season, [my fanbase has] grown so much. Thank you to all of the Layne Riggs supporters. I know our merchandise with the bright fluorescent orange always pops and shines, especially when we go somewhere like South Boston or Orange County,” Riggs said. “Hometown fans, they’re diehards. I couldn’t thank them enough. Some used to watch dad and were fans of his. But a lot of times, it’s cool to see new fans that didn’t even know dad and wanted to become my fan only because they liked what I did on the racetrack. It’s pretty neat that I have a legacy but at the same time I’m making my own legacy.”
While no official announcement has been made for Layne Riggs as far as the 2023 season is concerned, expect a steady diet of NASCAR National Series events for the refreshing serine, and mature driver. Riggs has shown pace, he doesn’t tear up equipment and he has proven he’s capable of collecting a season-long championship.