Parker Kligerman: on cloud nine
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 21, 2013) - When you ask most NASCAR drivers their feelings about Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, you'll always get something similar to, "It's an exciting place with great fans and great atmosphere." For most drivers, the week before heading to Bristol for the night race they are on a euphoric cloud nine. For Parker Kligerman, not only is he on cloud nine ready to experience the excitement of Friday night's Food City 250, he is stuck on a different version of Bristol's cloud nine - he's finished in ninth place in all three of his Nationwide Series starts at "The World's Fastest Half-Mile."
Despite starting 43rd and driving for an underfunded team in his first Bristol Nationwide Series start in August of 2010, the then 20-year old maneuvered his way through the field to bring home a ninth-place result and earn his first career top-10 finish. A year later driving for Penske Racing he improved his starting position to 12th, but once again ended the race ninth. Earlier this season in his first Bristol start for Kyle Busch Motorsports, he qualified 16th and at the end of 300 laps crossed the stripe in the ninth spot.
In addition to his three ninth-place finishes in the Nationwide Series, the Connecticut native has posted top-10 finishes in both of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts. He came home 10th in his first-ever start at the high-banked track in 2010 and last year in his first Bristol race as a Toyota driver scored a runner-up finish.
Kligerman has shown veteran poise this year, taking care of his equipment and putting himself in a position for strong finishes at the end of races. The No. 77 Camry leads the Nationwide Series with 3,700 laps completed out of a total of 3,717 possible laps and has been running at the finish of every event. In four of the last five races, the talented youngster has been scored in the top 10 when the final caution of the race occurred, but has been knocked around in the closing laps and only ended two of those races with top-10 finishes.
If he hopes to move off of cloud nine on Friday night, Kligerman will have to show a combination of patience and speed in an effort to improve upon his ninth-place finishes. He'll have to keep the No. 77 Toyota in one piece until the end of the race, then battle toe-to-toe with the likes of Sprint Cup Series regulars Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski in an effort to score his first career top-five finish at the rugged half-mile in the Nationwide Series.
Parker Kligerman, Driver of the No. 77 NNS Toyota Camry:
You've finished ninth in all three of your Nationwide Series starts at Bristol. What do you have to do to improve upon that? "Obviously, Bristol has been good to me -- I've always had good runs there. I think every race between trucks and Nationwide I've finished in the top 10. It's an exciting place and I enjoy going there. The night race is probably one of my favorite races of the whole year and when you go into a race with such a good attitude it helps. To improve is something that we've worked on all year by being consistent - taking care of our car and making improvements to it throughout the race to try and be at our best when it comes to the end of the race. Eric (Phillips, crew chief) and I feel like we have done a good job of that as of late, things just haven't gone our way and we haven't got the finishes that we deserve because of issues that weren't of our own doing, Hopefully, we can turn that around and get a top-five finish at Bristol."
What challenges does the new configuration at Bristol present?
"The track practices one way and races another. In practice, typically you'll start at the bottom and end up about the middle of the track. Come qualifying, you'll run the middle groove and then when the race comes around you'll be up as close to the wall as you can get because of how the banking is. In the spring race we were really good on the bottom and by the end of the race we were really good at the top. Hopefully, we can take what we learned in that race and use it for this night race. Although, the night race is usually a lot tougher because with it being hotter out, the track changes a lot quicker."
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 77 Bandit Chippers Camry
Despite it being in the early stages of building this team you had a strong run the first Bristol race. Do you expect to be even more competitive now that you have had time to make improvements? "Even though we had a strong run at Bristol in March, there were some things that we were struggling with at that point. We've addressed those issues over the course of the season and feel like we've gotten our race cars better. Bristol is one of the places that is always a wild card - you can easily get caught up in somebody else's accident in a hurry. You just have to be safe, run your race, take care of your equipment and be there at the end."
Parker Kligerman's No. 77 Toyota Camry:
KBM-3: KBM-3 will make its third start of the 2013 season in Friday's Food City 250 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The last time it saw action, Parker Kligerman drove the Toyota to an 11th-place finish at Dover International Speedway in June. The Camry has posted four top-10 finishes across seven career starts, including a third-place finish in last year's Food City 250.
Kyle Busch Motorsports