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CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY NOTES

Riggs Flags Down a Victory

April 28, 2002|MARTIN HENDERSON and DAN ARRITT | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Scott Riggs had the car to beat. Greg Biffle had the car to beat him. But with Riggs making up spots during pit stops, and Biffle falling backward, it was Riggs who won the NASCAR Busch Series Auto Club 300 on Saturday at California Speedway.

"[Biffle's] was the only car as good as ours, if not better," said Riggs, who passed 41 of 42 cars during the race and couldn't believe his good fortune when Biffle pitted under a yellow flag with 17 laps remaining. "I don't know what they were thinking."

Riggs finished 0.991 seconds ahead of Jeff Green and earned $84,670 for his victory in front of about 50,000 at the two-mile oval. The race was red-flagged with nine laps remaining because of the seventh caution flag. On the restart with six laps remaining, Riggs spun the tires, and Green nosed ahead on the front stretch but didn't finish the pass. Riggs held off Green and then stretched his lead by about two-tenths of a second per lap.

Stacy Compton finished third, pole-sitter Jack Sprague fourth and Jason Keller fifth. The victory was the second this season for Riggs, a rookie who led 49 laps and moved from fifth to third in the series. It is his third top-four finish in the last four races.

"We were just hoping for a top five or a top 10 finish, that would be an accomplishment," said Riggs, who started 42nd out of 43 cars because he replaced his Robert Yates engine Saturday morning.

The car to watch during most of the race was Biffle's. He started seventh, took the lead on Lap 17 and led a race-high 67 laps. He consistently pulled away from the field, opening a lead of 6.4 seconds by the time a yellow flag came out on Lap 44.

He led from laps 56-82 and 88-96. He gave up the lead when he pitted under yellow on Lap 97 and came out in 12th place. Riggs retained second place, passed series points leader Sprague on Lap 102 and never gave it up.

Biffle was in second place by Lap 122, then came his untimely pit stop. He came out in 14th place and finished 10th.

*

Winston West driver Eric Norris of Dana Point won the Pontiac Widetrack Grand Prix 200 at California Speedway. Norris, the son of actor Chuck Norris and a part-time Hollywood stunt coordinator, retook the lead from Kevin Richards with 22 laps remaining on the two-mile oval, then held off Richards and series points leader Austin Cameron after a caution flag forced a restart with two laps left.

"The last thing in the world we wanted at the end was a restart," Norris said. "[Richards and Cameron] are great at restarts."

The race was scheduled for 200 miles, but was shortened by 18 because of time restraints.

Richards passed Norris after an earlier restart on Lap 67, but gave back the lead two laps later. Norris led by 1.6 seconds with seven laps remaining, but a blown engine by Jack Sellers spilled oil on the track, forcing the final restart.

Norris, 36, whose chance for victory at this race last season evaporated when he had to make a green-flag pit stop for fuel late in the race, averaged 135.708 mph in his Ford Taurus and earned $24,501 for the victory.

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