Parker Kligerman: "My 90-year-old grandma came to the race and I had my career-best finish in front of her. I'm proud of that -- happy she was here and hope she enjoyed herself."
With 90-Year-Old "Grandma Dottie" watching him race in person for the first time in his career, Parker Kligerman was looking to produce a performance to remember.
After running just inside the top 10 for the majority of the Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana Calif., the 22-year-old driver found himself scored in the 13th position for a lap-115 restart, the second driver with four fresh tires.
Seven laps later, the talented youngster had maneuvered his way into the top five and as the race proceeded caution free made his way up to third for several laps.With just four circuits remaining, he surrendered the position to former Sprint Cup Series regular Regan Smith, but the end result was a Nationwide Series-best fourth-place finish in the sentimental race.
"That last pit stop Eric (Phillips, crew chief) made a great call to take tires and we just blasted through the field and tried to hold on for third, but couldn't quite run them down for first or second and just barely came up short on third," said Kligerman, who has two top-five finishes across five starts this season.
"My 90-year-old grandma came to the race and I had my career-best finish in front of her. I'm proud of that -- happy she was here and hope she enjoyed herself."
The early indication Saturday was that Kligerman would be a force to be reckoned with, as the youngster drove from his eighth starting position up to fifth by lap 10 and proclaimed his No. 77 Toyota Racing Camry "bad to the bone."
He remained in the fifth spot until a debris caution slowed the field for the first time on lap 34.
Crew chief Eric Phillips summoned his driver to pit road, where the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) over-the-wall crew administered an unusually slow four-tire and fuel stop and returned the No. 77 Toyota to the track scored in the ninth position.
Shortly after the lap-38 restart Kligerman subsided outside the top 10, but would return to the tenth spot on lap 51.
In the middle stages of the race, the Connecticut native diagnosed his Camry as "tight in the center and needing drive off" as he ran just inside the top 10.
Phillips and crew made track bar and air pressure adjustments during each of the next two stops, but their driver continued to proclaim a need for "more drive off" as the 150-lap race approached the final stages.
The No. 77 Toyota was scored in the ninth spot when a one-car spin on lap 110, produced what turned out to be the final caution of the race.
With the race historically having a late-race caution, the crew chiefs for the top-eight cars elected to save their last set of Goodyear tires and made fuel-only stops, while Phillips believed the best way for his team to improve on an already strong run was to make a four-tire stop and hope that the race would remain caution free.
Kligerman was scored in the 13th position when the green flag waved, for what turned out to be the final time on lap 115. After the always adventurous restart at the extremely wide California track sorted itself out, he began his march towards the front.
Using the apron and making three-wide passes, just seven laps later the 22-year-old had maneuvered his black Camry into the top five.
With just over 20 laps remaining, the talented youngster made his way around two more competitors and settled into the third spot, where he would remain for several laps.
Smith emerged from a battle with eventual fifth-place finisher Austin Dillon, chased down and with just four laps remaining made his way around Kligerman for the coveted final spot on the podium.
KBM owner Kyle Busch in his Joe Gibbs Racing Monster Energy machine picked up his third Nationwide Series victory in just five races this season.
The win was his series-leading 54th career triumph, his sixth in the Nationwide Series at Auto Club Speedway and the 108th of his career in one of NASCAR's top three divisions.
Nationwide Series championship point standings leader Sam Hornish Jr. finished 0.834 seconds behind Busch in the runner-up position. Smith, Kligerman and Dillon rounded out the top-five finishers.
Kligerman was awarded the Mobil 1 Driver of the Race and his 54 quality passes tied him with rookie Kyle Larson for the most during the 150-lap event.
There were four caution periods for 17 laps. Seven drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead 17 times. Nine drivers failed to finish the race.
Kligerman, who netted KBM's 25th career top-10 finish across 38 Nationwide Series starts, will enjoy two weeks off before heading into the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 April 12 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth ranked eighth in the Nationwide Series championship standings.
Kyle Busch Motorsports