After posting solid results in the first two road-course races of the season and showing speed in all four practice sessions for the inaugural Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Parker Kligerman and his Bandit Chippers Racing team believed they could contend for a victory on Saturday. The talented youngster methodically worked his way from his ninth starting position to run in the top five for the majority of the first half of the race, but was knocked off course twice over the final thirty laps and relegated to a disappointing 13th-place finish.
"We had top five car and maybe we didn't have the raw speed to contend with AJ (Allmendinger), but it was going to be a really good day for this No. 77 Bandit Chippers team -- probably had a top-three car -- until we got our day ruined by ignorance from another driver that had nothing to lose because he wasn't running for points," Kligerman said.
Kligerman finished all four practice sessions, two each on Thursday and Friday, inside the top 10 and followed it up by earning the ninth starting position for Saturday's race. He had maneuvered his way up to the seventh spot by the time the first caution of the race occurred on lap 21. Before pit road opened, he communicated to Phillips that his Toyota was "tight rolling through the center." The Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop and returned their driver to the track scored in the eighth spot for the lap-23 restart, with two of the two three cars electing not to pit.
The talented youngster was able to pick up one spot before the field was slowed again for a three-car accident on lap 27. After two cars pitted, the Bandit Chippers Camry took the ensuing restart from the fifth spot. Kligerman would remain in fifth until 10 laps later when Nelson Piquet Jr. overcharged the corner and made contact with him. The contact would send Piquet Jr. spinning and allowed Brian Vickers to work his way around the No. 77 before the caution came out for the 30 car.
Kligerman returned to the top five shortly after the lap-41 restart, where he would remain until the fifth caution occurred on lap 46. On lap 55, the No. 77 Camry's 86.36-second lap was the fastest of any car in the top five as it began closing on the top-four cars. One lap later, Phillips summoned his young driver down pit road under green-flag conditions for a regularly-scheduled stop. With four fresh tires and full tank of fuel, the Connecticut native returned to the track in the 16th position.
The sixth caution of the day slowed the field on lap 63 with the Bandit Chippers Camry scored in the 12th position. Several cars that hadn't pitted made their stops, leaving Kligerman scored in the seventh spot when the field went back green on lap 66. Shortly after the restart, he got knocked off course and through the grass. By the time he emerged back on the pavement, he had subsided to the 13th spot.
As the race progressed towards the final stages under green-flag conditions, Kligerman produced fast lap times and erased a large margin between himself and the 10th and 11th-place competitors. He worked his way around Elliott Sadler for the 10th spot with just two laps remaining and appeared to have salvaged a top-10 finish. The No. 75 car got stuck in the gravel pit just before race leader A.J. Allmendinger took the white flag. The seventh and final caution of the race set up a green-white-checkered finish.
The caution put the No. 77 team in a tough position, with its fuel-mileage calculation uncertain to make it to the end of the race. Anticipating that it would take more than one attempt to finish the race, Phillips summoned Kligerman to pit road where the over-the-wall crew put on four fresh tires and filled the Bandit Chippers Camry with fuel.
Kligerman took the green-white-checkered restart from the 16th position and set his sights on maneuvering his way back to the top 10 over the final two laps. He appeared to have accomplished the task but once again was knocked around by Marcos Ambrose and lost several spots on the final lap. As the field completed the race on the first attempt, the No. 77 Bandit Chippers Camry would cross the stripe with a disappointing 13th-place finish.
Allmendinger picked up his second career win, both on road courses this season, in just his 10th career Nationwide Series start. Pole Sitter Michael McDowell finished 1.164 seconds behind him in the runner-up spot. Sam Hornish Jr. finished third, Max Papis fourth and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were seven caution periods totaling 18 laps. Seven drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead eight times. Ten drivers failed to finish the 22nd event of 2013.
Kligerman remains 10th in the Nationwide Series championship standings with 22 of 33 races complete, 82 points behind series points leader Sam Hornish Jr. The Kyle Busch owned No. 77 entry ranks 12th in the owner's championship standings, 180 points behind the series-leading No. 22 team.
Kyle Busch Motorsports