No. 77 Toyota team earns hard-fought ninth-place finish in History 300
As they have done for most of the season, Parker Kligerman and his Toyota Racing team maximized their opportunities and put themselves in position for a strong finish when it mattered most. After qualifying fifth and running inside the top 10 in the early stages of the History 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, the team fell outside of the top 15 after the over-the-wall crew left a wheel loose during the first pit stop causing a vibration in the chassis during the subsequent run.
Despite the issue, Kligerman took care of his Camry and crew chief Eric Phillips made a strategy call late in the race that placed his driver near the front of the field in the closing laps. After running inside the top five the majority of the final 30 laps, a late caution bunched the field and allowed teams with fresher tires to work their way past the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) entry. When it was all said and done, the No. 77 team ended the day with a hard-fought ninth-place finish, allowing their talented young driver to move up to sixth in the driver's point standings.
After registering the second fastest lap in the second practice session Thursday afternoon, Phillips elected to skip the final tune up that evening. In Saturday morning's qualifying session, Kligerman proved once again that his No. 77 Camry would be one to contend with in the race, earning the fifth starting position for the 200-lap event.
Shortly after the green flag waved Saturday afternoon, the Connecticut native communicated to Phillips that his Toyota was "a little tight" as he surrendered a few spots in the running order in the early stages of the race. He was running in the ninth position when the first caution of the day occurred for debris on lap 40. When pit road opened, Kligerman brought his No. 77 to pit road where the over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop with a wedge adjustment. As he exited his pit box, the jack got stuck underneath the car and didn't come out until after the car exited the boundary line. The team was assessed a pit road penalty for removing equipment. After serving a stop-and-go, the young driver returned to the track at the tail end of the field in the 25th position.
As the race proceeded, the 22-year-old was scored just inside the top 20 and communicated that the chassis adjustment had made his Camry "too loose on throttle." As a long green flag run continued, he radioed to Phillips that he was feeling a vibration inside the cockpit, but could not identify the cause. Sensing an issue, he just settled into his spot in the running order and each lap cautiously made his way around the 1.5-mile Quad-oval.
Debris in Turn 3 brought out the third caution of the day on lap 87. Kligerman brought his No. 77 to pit road for service and to evaluate the vibration. Shortly before his car entered the pit stall, Phillips noticed a wobbly left rear tire and alerted his over-the-wall crew. After receiving four fresh tires and a full tank of fuel, the talented youngster returned to the track scored in the 14th position for the lap-91 restart.
Unable to diagnosis the handling of his Toyota because of the loose wheel, Kligerman alerted that his car was "very tight" over a long green-flag run after the restart. He brought his "Stars and Stripes" Camry down pit road for a green-flag stop on lap 148. The over-the-wall crew put on four fresh tires - with an air pressure adjustment- and returned their driver to the track scored in the 15th position.
Shortly after returning to the track, another debris caution slowed the field on lap 153. The young driver communicated that his Toyota was "still way too tight." With just one car behind him on the lead lap, Phillips summoned him to pit road despite having just fewer than 10 laps on his tires. After receiving four fresh tires and a wedge adjustment, Kligerman returned to the track scored in the 16th position for the lap-157 restart.
When a three-car accident slowed the field for the fifth time on lap165, KBM's entry had advanced up to 13th position. The top three cars elected to stay on the track, while the majority of the other lead-lap cars visited pit road. Having just made a pit stop, Phillips elected to remain on the track, hoping that the best remedy for a tight-handling car would be clean air.
Kligerman took the lap-172 restart from the fourth position. By the time the field came back to the stripe, he had maneuvered his way around Sprint Cup Series regular Joey Logano and captured the third position. Over the next five laps he distanced himself by five car lengths from Logano and Kevin Harvick, who were in a side-by-side battle for fourth. The worst scenario possible happened when a one-car spin brought out the caution on lap 179.
The field was bunched and all the cars with fresh tires, including Harvick, lined up from fifth on back for the ensuing restart on lap 183. Two laps later, another caution occurred with Kligerman scored in the fourth position. The race went back green on lap 185 and remained caution free the final 15 laps. Despite a valiant effort to score a top-five finish, with each passing lap the talented youngster battled drivers with fresher tires. With 10 laps remaining he was scored in the fifth spot, with five laps remaining he had subsided to seventh and when the field crossed the stripe he was scored in the ninth position, barley beating points leader Regan Smith to the start-finish line.
Kligerman registered his fifth top-10 finish of the season and his 10th over 28 career starts. It was the 27th top-10 finish for KBM's Nationwide Series program in its 43rd start.
KBM owner Kyle Busch drove his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) Monster Energy Camry to his 57th career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory, sixth of 2013 and 114th career across the three National Series. Kasey Kahne crossed the strip 0.939 seconds behind Busch in the runner-up spot. Joey Logano and Kyle Larson finished third and fourth, respectively, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were seven caution periods totaling 33 laps. Five drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead nine times. Seven drivers failed to finish the 200-lap event.