Series Michigan open test quotes

Driver Quotes: ARCA Open Test at Michigan Int'l Speedway Wednesday, May 27, 2009 Parker Kligerman No. 77 Cunningham Motorsports Driver Development Dodge Charger On balancing ARCA RE/MAX Series competition and senior year of ...

Driver Quotes: ARCA Open Test at Michigan Int'l Speedway
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Parker Kligerman
No. 77 Cunningham Motorsports Driver Development Dodge Charger

On balancing ARCA RE/MAX Series competition and senior year of high school...
I don't graduate until two weeks from now. Prom is the night of Pocono (June 6). So it's about 3 hours and 1 minute on MapQuest from Pocono Raceway to Prom. I think that I can make it because if I got there about 6 or 6:30 p.m., prom doesn't start until 7:30 p.m. or so.

It's kinda a hectic schedule. I go to Naples High School. It's the public school in my hometown of West Port, Connecticut. I have a lot of support from my principal. The day that I walked into school Freshman year I said 'You know I want to be a racecar driver and I'm going to have to travel a lot.' I didn't know exactly how far I was going to go but at the time I was racing open wheel cars on the West Coast. He said as long as you keep your grades up, it's a cool endeavor, we like it. My parents said, 'well it keeps you focused so we'll support it as much as we can as long as you keep your grades up'.

My parents, actually [were the harder sell than my principal in convincing that I should be a racecar driver]. You would think that it would have been the principal but he thought it was awesome right away.

On his career goals in stock car auto racing...
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series--that's the top and that's where I want to be. I think a lot of kids start off in Open Wheel and they go 'oh okay I am going to go race in the F1 World Championship' but then you realize maybe that's not actually the top. It's a cool spot but for an American kid the top is Cup.

On being an 18-year-old racecar driver in the ARCA RE/MAX Series...
I am probably at the perfect age right now because hopefully if things rebound in the next 2 years or so by the time I am ready to enter the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series the economy will have turned around and there will be more opportunities for me. I think I'm at the perfect age. It's amazing to be racing right now and to be in the situation that I am in, to be able to do the whole [ARCA RE/MAX Series] season. And I am so thankful that we were able to put everything together before everything [the economy] fell apart.

I don't really have a timeline for my career. You can't really have a timeline because it's not my decision. Obviously there are a lot of factors and other people will decide when I can move up and when I will be ready to move up. Right now my focus is on ARCA Racing and winning races right now. We want to win. When we came into this season I said I wanted to win 6+ races so we'll see how that goes.

On deciding to become a professional stock car driver...
There wasn't one deciding day. It was a lot of who you knew--different people and different connections. A lot of it started by winning the Formula TR Open Wheel Championship, which is a Formula Renault Open Wheel Car, on the West Coast. I was able to use a lot of different connections from that. When I did so well there it had validity because guys like Marco Andretti and Colin Braun had done it before and I had beaten their records so it was something that I could sell to people. And I wanted to go to Europe at the time but it didn't make sense. With a little bit of my own money I went USAC Midget Racing, really low budget style. Got into oval racing and it was then that I decided that I wanted to go to NASCAR.

That's where it's at. That looks awesome. And I started to love oval racing. It was just such good racing compared to road course stuff. At the time my manager/coach [Bob Perona] was coaching a kid at Cunningham Motorsports and they wanted to do a deal with Ilmor Engineering to start a Midget Team and to start a Midget Engine built by Ilmor. We put that deal together and I became the development driver for that engine and we did so well that I was given the opportunity to drive the ARCA car last season and we did well there. The owners of the team are Briggs Cunningham and Kerry Scherer. Budget-wise, we're not the highest-funded team. We don't have the 10 crew members working full time for us like some of the other ARCA teams do but we are able to stretch our means very well and come here with a great car every time. I don't think it's anything that you would notice on the outside. It's just that sometimes we have to find ways to cut costs in places.

On being a Penske Development Driver...
I'm a Penske Development driver and that has helped a lot because my crew chief is from Penske Racing and a few of my mechanics that work on my car have been able to become part of Penske Racing because of that affiliation. That was part of the whole deal of becoming a Development Team with Penske Racing-We can build off of the mechanics, drivers, cars, equipment, that sort of thing. We can kind of go through the ranks. We're seeing the fruits of those labors right now.

It's amazing to be part of such an iconic organization, Penske Racing. Obviously, I play a very small part right now but just being able to walk in that shop and utilize some of their things-like the strength trainers there-or leaning on them for pit stop practice or all of the extra team stuff there. And superspeedway stuff--I was able to ask David Stremme and Justin Allgaier questions like 'what do I look out for' so it's helping to accelerate my learning curve and having that connection has helped make me feel like I have a future instead of just being another driver in the ARCA RE/MAX Series.

On his youthful appearance...
We were here last year and I was kicked out of the [NASCAR Sprint] Cup garage twice so I probably wasn't allowed in there. I'm 18 years old right now. Kentucky is the biggest track that we have been on so far...well Daytona and Talladega, too, but the restrictor plate stuff is a little different.

On former Open Wheel driver Juan Pablo Montoya's transition to stock car racing...
When [Juan Montoya] came in he had developed already in the Open Wheel ranks and had been set so much in his ways of driving an Open Wheel car that he had to learn so much so quickly while racing against the top-42 drivers in the country. They [NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers] ARE the best drivers. The Cup drivers are so close--when you have a qualifying session look how close those drivers are. If you are off just a little bit you end up in the back of the pack. So compared to that, I think that he's done an awesome job coming over. For me, I've done the open wheel stuff for such a short amoount of time that I was not ever really set in my ways so when I came to stock car racing I was still pretty open minded to learn new things and I think maybe that's why I have been able to excel here but I've also been able to use some of that road course background in terms of when we go to a road course like New Jersey Motorsports Park or maybe even some of the short tracks where I have those road course experiences that I can lean on where maybe some of the other drivers don't have those experiences.

On the differences between oval racing and road course racing...
In Oval Racing [being successful] is a lot more dependent on talent because there are a lot more people who want this and more competition which is kinda cool because car owners are looking for talent. Whereas with the open wheel road course racing its very much dependent on funding. You won't go anywhere without funding. There are no real free rides until you get to the top. Before that it's all about having a sponsor or funding and that's what you see there. What you see there is just a lot of richer kids racing whereas here its based more on kids that should be here based on their talent.

On career goals while competing in the ARCA RE/MAX Series...
Right now the goal is to win as many races as possible and win the championship and we'll think about my future after that later on. I haven't even thought about what happens after this. Obviously, as a driver I want to move up and go somewhere but that's not my decision at this point so I haven't really thought about it. We're just focused on winning this championship right now.

On Michigan Int'l Speedway...
This will be my first time at Michigan Int'l Speedway. It's a big, fast track with great, long, sweeping corners and plenty of three-wide racing.

On balancing high school and stock car racing...
Last quarter I was able to pull it off with some pretty good grades at school but it's been tough. I think this quarter has been the toughest just because we have had races every weekend and testing a lot. Thankfully being a Senior in High School has been good because my teachers have been kind of lenient with it and let me make up school work late. It hasn't been too hard, socially. I haven't missed that much, I don't think. Obviously you don't get to live the 'Senior Year' of High School and that sort of laid back lifestyle but I'm doing something really cool instead so it's okay.

On the possibility of taking time off from racing...
The way it is now, if you skip a year or if you spend any time at all outside of a racecar people forget about you immediately. You're only as good as your last race. I think if you took that mentality at all you are out of it for good.

On traveling to race events...
I usually just travel alone. My crew chief, Chris Carrier, and I have become good friends and I can lean on him and my crew if I need anything. Obviously, I'm pretty young so sometimes I'll be a little bit lost or something trying to find my way to the track but I've just had to adjust by growing up faster and learning to be a little bit more independent. It might be a good thing or in some ways it's a bad thing. We'll see.

On getting involved with professional motor sports...
I was always into cars and stuff when I was younger. When I was about eight years old or nine years old we found the SPEED Channel on cable and I started watching racing all the time and I was like 'wow. I need to go race. I want to go race!' My parents had no exposure to racing at all. There's no one in my family that had ever even heard of a racecar so they were like 'what are you even talking about?' And finally they got me into Kart racing and I did really well. So I told them, 'give me one year to go car racing.' And after I begged for that my dad gave me a year of Formula TR and after that he was like 'you're on your own' so it's been up to me to work myself and to work with my mom to make it happen all of these years. I had to give up pretty much every birthday and Christmas gift, anything you can think of. I think every gift I have gotten since I started racing had something to do with racing. Either a helmet, a race suit or something like that. It's worth it though.

***

JUSTIN LOFTON
No. 6 Lofton Cattle Toyota

On winning at Michigan International Speedway one year ago...
I have good memories of this place from last year. A lot of rain! It was one of those days where the stars just kind of lined up. There was really no pressure in the race. It was just go out and have fun. The whole Eddie Sharp Racing Organization gives us some awesome equipment and there was really nothing to go out there and worry about. I just did my deal and ended up winning the race so it was neat.

On the level of competition in the ARCA RE/MAX Series...
From three years ago to last year when we had Ricky Stenhouse and Scott Speed and Justin Allgaier and a lot of those guys racing in our Series and a lot of new guys coming up--the Series has really been elevated. Those drivers elevated the Series and elevated the competition level. It gave the Series that much more recognition with having those guys come in and move up and have a lot of luck.

On the financial aspect of stock car auto racing in the ARCA RE/MAX Series...
And of course when you start bringing in Penske and Roush and Cup level teams, they are going to bring in better equipment, they are going to elevate the cost, and so everyone else just has to step up and be better. This year I think it's stronger than ever. I know my budget went up from last year racing so it's just something that you need to do to keep up. ARCA is doing an awesome job and giving us great tracks to race on and you know with the veterans in it we get to learn a lot of stuff before we get to the Cup level. We knew what it was last year and that the way the Series is progressing. With racing, it doesn't matter what the economy is, the budget is always going to go up every year. If you don't increase your budget you're going to start running farther back in the pack. Racing is basically one of the only things that you can buy performance in. I don't think that there are fewer top teams because of the economy. I think there are still anywhere from five to eight teams that can win a race every weekend.

On the No. 6 Lofton Cattle Eddie Sharp Racing Team...
I've been very fortunate to have been as good as we have been as a team. I have an awesome crew chief. Mark Rette came down from the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Actually, everyone on my team we brought down from the Nationwide and Cup Series to work on my deal so of course that is going to raise our budget just on payroll alone. Eddie went out and bought a bunch of new cars for me. So it's been an awesome year so far.

On the benefits of an off road racing background...
Off Road Racing and Hill Climb Racing is all about throttle control. You hear all about braking on egg shells and just being really smooth and off road racing-and especially hill climb racing-is all about being smooth because if you make a mistake you're going to end up off the side of a mountain. It's just driver control. There are a lot of times that I should have wrecked racecars when I didn't and I credit a lot of that to my experiences in the desert.

On career goals in stock car auto racing...
My goal, hopefully at Michigan I will be racing in a Camping World Truck along with the ARCA RE/MAX Series. That's something that I'm still working on. If not, definitely I will be in both a truck and an ARCA car at Kentucky in July. Potential Cup Car Owners want performance and so that's what we are going for. They want people that are running up front. They want people fighting for positions that they are going to see on TV doing something. There are a lot of older drivers in the Cup Series and the Nationwide Series right now that just kinda go around in circles like they've done for the last ten or 20 years. Sponsors, I think, are going to start getting tired of that. If they are going to spend a lot of money we want something that is going to work hard for us. I think there are going to be a lot of changing times where you have new people coming back into the Truck, Nationwide and Cup Series. I think Talent is definitely going to be a top priority. Funding always is a top priority but car owners don't want torn up racecars even if you have an unlimited budget.

On goals while racing in the ARCA RE/MAX Series...
My goal when we show up to the racetrack is just to go out and win the race. If you are winning the race, you are going to be the one that's getting all of the attention and not having to worry about that [aspect of the sport]. There are definitely a lot of mixed interests in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. That's part of the fun. That's what the ARCA RE/MAX Series is all about. You've got old talent versus up-and-coming new talent and kind of a pile of people in the middle and see who wins.

On former teammate, NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie Scott Speed...
I'm not a big Scott Speed fan. We hung out outside the track and Scott's a very unique person. I think his deal with Red Bull brought a lot more recognition then actually Scott Speed himself because I think when Americans saw the true Scott Speed they were not fans anymore. Red Bull is involved in a lot of sports and a lot of extreme sports-stuff that I like to watch-in addition to racing and I would support Red Bull just on the fact that they support us. They support racing. So I don't think it was so much that Scott brought something to the ARCA Series. It was that Red Bull brought something to it. Scott is going to struggle because of his attitude.

On his current teammates at Eddie Sharp Racing (Craig Goess, Steve Arpin and Tim George Jr)...
Every single one of my teammates are awesome drivers no matter where they came from. Craig [Goess] was a Legends Car Hero. [Steve] Arpin--well if you are going to race a Dirt Modified you're going to be racing against Steve Arpin and he's going to beat you. Tim George Jr. is an awesome road course racer. The little stock car experience that they have is what is holding them back more than anything. I have noticed a progression in their performance every week and I think by the end of the year, if not by August, you'll see all four Eddie Sharp Racing cars up front.

On his second year of fulltime ARCA RE/MAX Series competition...
So far, the decision to stay in the ARCA Series for another year [instead of moving to the NASCAR Nationwide Series or the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series] has worked out really well for me. It was a tough decision. I've always wanted to race a truck and I've always wanted to race a Nationwide car but to have success in those Series I needed another year of experience and the ARCA RE/MAX Series was the best place to get that experience.

The Racing for Wildlife 200 is on Friday, June 12, 2009 at 5 p.m. Eastern. The race is live on SPEED.

-credit: arca

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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Team Penske