MOORESVILLE, N.C. - Last week Connecticut native Parker Kligerman had his homecoming race, this week it is crew chief Eric Phillips and general manager Rick Ren's turn as the Nationwide Series heads to Chicagoland (Ill.) Speedway in Joliet for the STP 300.
Phillips has called the shots for four Truck Series races in the "Prairie State," including three since joining KBM at the start of the 2010 season, but this will be his first time atop the pit box for a Nationwide Series race at his home-state track. While at KBM, his drivers have finished inside the top 10 in all three starts, with Busch collecting the win in 2010 and a fifth-place finish in 2011, to go along with an eighth-place result from Jason Leffler last season.
While Kligerman hasn't visited victory lane in the "Windy City," it is a track that he has been very successful at. The talented youngster has finished 13th or better in each of his four career starts at Chicagoland, split between the Nationwide and Truck Series.
He qualified fifth and finished seventh in last year's July Nationwide Series event and came from the 25th starting position to finish 13th while driving for an underfunded operation in the series 2010 event. In the Truck Series, he posted top-five finishes in both career starts at the intermediate track, leading multiple laps in each as well.
Kligerman, who enters this weekend ranked 10th in the Nationwide Series championship standings, is ready to help the No. 77 team rebound from a three-week stretch full of blues and get Phillips and Ren back to that same old place they visited in 2010, victory lane at "Sweet Home Chicagoland."
Parker Kligerman, Driver of the No. 77 Toyota Camry:
Do you think this race will have more attention on it because it is the only NASCAR National Series event on the schedule this weekend? "Absolutely -- it's an honor to be able to race on Sunday's. Sunday is a day that is usually reserved for the Sprint Cup Series and as a racer growing up you want always wanted to be able to race on Sunday's -- like every football player wants to play on Monday night's -- because it's a big deal. Hopefully, we can put on an awesome race for the fan base watching. We are the number one show for the weekend and it provides an opportunity to create some new fans for the Nationwide Series."
You have three top-10 finishes in four career starts at Chicagoland. Is there something about the track that fits your driving style? "Sometimes as a driver you just show up to a track and for whatever reason everything just clicks -- Chicago is one of those places for me. Every time I've raced there I feel like I know exactly what I need out of the race car and being able to find it and that is always a good feeling as a race car driver.
Although I haven't been able to get to victory lane, I feel like I have a great chance going there this weekend with this Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 77 Toyota Racing team. This race last year was probably the closest I ever came to winning a Nationwide Series event -- we were running second for most of the last run until a late-race caution. I feel like this is a place where we can go out and win -- hopefully we can do just that this weekend."
Do you feel like the bigger tracks are where this team has produced the most speed this season? "Definitely the mile-and-a-halves have been our strength and I think it's one of those things where we've put a lot of focus on those tracks and the results have showed for it. We are bringing our brand new Camry that we race in Kentucky this weekend and we are really excited to go out there and show the potential that is has. Under the leadership of Eric Phillips and everyone that was involved with building it, I think this new car is really a step forward for our company."
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 77 Toyota Camry:
Having grown up in Illinois, is the race in Chicago one that you look forward to? "I grew up about two- and-a- half hours from the track and spent a lot of time in the Chicago area, so I look forward to getting back to the area each year. With Samantha (Busch) being from the area as well, I know this is a race that Kyle and Samantha always want to see our team run well at.
If you look at our results this season, the intermediate tracks is where we have shown the most speed, so I'm confident that we can go out and do that again this week. We're bringing a car that was brand new at Kentucky and was pretty fast, we just had an alternator issue that set us back. It's been a rough couple weeks results wise, we need to have a solid run Sunday and get things going back in the right direction."