Layne Riggs entered the inaugural Crystal Coast 125 at Carteret County Speedway on Saturday evening looking to bounce back after his victory in last weekend’s Late Model feature at Ace Speedway was taken away after his car failed post-race inspection. Riggs, along with the rest of his competition, were entering uncharted territory in Swansboro, North Carolina, but the Bahama, North Carolina native was confident about his odds of going to victory lane, having scored two consecutive CARS Response Top 5 finishes in the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour.
When the green flag dropped, it appeared as if Riggs would not only bring home his third consecutive Top 5 finish, but that he would also interrupt the dominance of Bobby McCarty and Lee Pulliam by picking up his first victory for the season. Despite dominating the early portion of the race, Riggs would be forced to settle for the second position after a controversial accident in which he lost control of his #99 Romeo Guest Construction Late Model after battling Josh Berry for the lead.
Although Riggs miraculously held onto the lead after looping his car, CARS Response Energy Tour officials ruled that because his spin brought out the caution, he would be forced to start from the rear of the field, much to the chagrin of Riggs and his crew.
“I just felt like I got done wrong by the CARS Tour,” Riggs said. “Josh Berry intentionally tried to wreck me, and we did a complete 360 and never lost forward momentum, and I kept going at least 40 miles per hour. It was kind of like an Earnhardt spin almost, and we were in the lead when the caution came out, and I got put to the rear, and I thought it was the wrong call.”
Berry, who had been looking to break through with his first victory of the 2018 CARS Response Energy Tour season, ended up getting the worst of the accident, as he was hit hard by Sarah Cornett-Ching as he tried to avoid Riggs’s spinning car. The accident ultimately put an end to what had been a successful night for Berry, and although he expressed his frustration towards Cornett-Ching for damaging his car, he also blamed himself for putting all three of them in a bad situation.
“Not an ideal situation,” Berry said. “I just got into Layne. I didn’t mean to, as we were just racing hard. I hate it, and in the end, it was my fault. I started all of it. We’ve got a torn up car, but we’ll fix it and be back next time.”
While Berry’s car ended up on the wrecker, Riggs found himself in the fifth position with only a handful of laps remaining to re-take the lead of the race, which was now occupied by Bobby McCarty. Although Riggs quickly passed several cars and posted the fastest lap times of the entire event, he was unable to make a move on McCarty despite closing the gap to a few car lengths, as the series points leader picked up his fourth victory of the season and opened up his advantage in the series points standings.
Tempers continued to boil over after the race concluded, as Riggs voiced his frustration with the series’ decision to put him at the rear of the field following his accident with Berry, which earned him the praise of the packed grandstands at Carteret County. Several members of Riggs’ crew, including his father Scott Riggs, all protested the decision to both CARS Response Energy Tour race director Chris Ragle and CARS Response Energy Tour owner Jack McNelly, both of whom doubled down on their decision to move Riggs with the back, arguing that it was consistent with the series’ rulebook.
“He was contacted from the rear by Berry,” McNelly said. “He spun, and that initiated the yellow. By rule, if you are involved in an incident, and the yellow comes out because of what you were involved in, you go to the rear. There’s no stipulation that says ‘it wasn’t your fault.’ It’s a fact that he spun, and that initiated the yellow flag.”
Despite initially facing criticism from Riggs’ crew, McNelly felt like most of the crew members came around to understanding the series’ ruling on the Riggs’ incident, but the late-race turn of events adds another chapter to what has been a tumultuous season for the former championship contender. After failing to finish in the Top 10 in the first two races of the 2018 CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour season, Riggs suffered a broken collarbone while riding his dirt bike during the weekend of Easter, which forced him to sit out the Mid-Atlantic Classic at Orange County Speedway, ending his run at his first series championship before it had started.
With the 2018 CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour championship no longer a primary objective for his team, Riggs is now focused on winning as many Late Model races as he can, and he believes that he is getting closer to victory lane every weekend despite his recent string of bad luck. However, Riggs admitted that the loss at Carteret County is going to sting for a long time, adding that the best course of action or him is to move forward.
“Right now we just go to do the best that we can,” Riggs said. “I want to show everybody in the stands that we were the winning car tonight, and that we will try to be the winning car at the next race.”
Riggs will have to wait a few weeks before he has another opportunity to pick up another victory in the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour, as the series will travel to Kingsport, Tennessee for the inaugural Food Country USA 125 at Kingsport Speedway. Riggs is expected to emerge as one of the favorites in the race, but will have to find a way to hold off McCarty, who will be looking to pick up his third consecutive victory of the season on July 14th.