No. 77 Project Pink Camry overcomes obstacles to post a seventh-place finish
Parker Kligerman led seven laps early in the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and was running inside the top three until he made a regularly scheduled pit stop under green flag conditions on lap 85. Shortly after pitting, the caution flew before stops had cycled through and the No. 77 Kyle Busch Foundation "Project Pink" Camry team found itself a lap down.
Kligerman took the lap-150 restart from the 17th spot and began to slowly but surely make his way back to the top 10. By lap 160 he had maneuvered his way up to the 11th spot, but communicated that his No. 77 Toyota was "loose on two tires." When the final caution of the 200-lap event occurred, he was scored in the eighth position and then over the final five-lap run was able to advance one position to bring his Kyle Busch Foundation "Project Pink" Camry home in the seventh spot, but leaving the team wondering what might have been had the final stop been a clean one.
"Our Project Pink Toyota Camry was really fast today -- I had an inkling about that after practice," said Kligerman who picked up his 11th top-10 finish of the season. "We got in the race and the first run -- restarts-wise -- made positions. Took the lead within the first 20 laps and drove away from second-place and felt like this was our day. From there, we just showed top-three speeds throughout the whole race. We got all the way back up to second after one of the first pit stops and we're behind the 7 (Regan Smith) and we did that green flag stop, and the caution came out right in the middle of the green flag stop and caught us a lap down. We had to fight all the way back from that. Got all the way back into the top-three again and we had an issue on pit road which relegated us all the way to the back again and drove all the way back through the field to seventh. We did it a couple of times today with a lot of speed and just proud of everyone on this team. Hopefully, we can carry this same speed over the next couple of weeks and minimize those mistakes."
After finishing Friday's final practice session third quick, Kligerman was optimistic that his No. 77 Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team had provided him with a car capable of collecting his first win. In Saturday morning's qualifying session, he earned the seventh starting position, but felt that the team had left a little on the table because his car bottomed out through the center of the turns and slowed him slightly.
When the green flag dropped on Saturday's 200-lap event, the Connecticut native set sail for the front of the field. He completed a three-wide pass on the first lap, putting him in the fourth position. A one-car spin slowed the field on lap 3 and then on the ensuing restart, Kligerman was able to gain another spot and at the completion of lap 7 was in the third position. Two laps later, he advanced into second and tucked in behind race leader Justin Allgaier.
The Kyle Busch Foundation "Project Pink" Camry worked its way to the front of the field on lap 20, where it would remain until the competition caution on lap 25. When pit road opened, Kligerman surrendered his spot at the front of the field to get fresh right-side tires and fuel. With some teams electing to take fuel only, the No. 77 Toyota returned to the track scored in the fifth spot for the lap-30 restart.
Another strong restart allowed the 23-year-old to advance up to the third spot by lap 31, where he would remain until the next caution on lap 36. On the ensuing restart, he advanced back into the runner-up position, where he would remain until lap 49. A one-car spin on lap 52 slowed the field for the fifth time. Kligerman and Phillips discussed strategy and just as they were starting to come down pit road, they changed their minds and just before hitting the commitment cone dashed back onto the track. In the process, they lost one spot by failing to maintain their position in the line and would restart fourth when the field went back green on lap 56.
Kligerman quickly made his way back into the third position, where he settled in behind race leader Regan Smith and the second-place car of Matt Kenseth. The three would distance themselves from the reset of the field as the race continued under green-flag conditions and as the pit window approached, the "Project Pink" Camry would maneuver into the runner-up spot.
On lap 85, Phillips summoned his young driver to pit road, where the over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop with a wedge adjustment to try and provide more stability into the corners for Kligerman. Shortly after returning to the track, Elliott Sadler looped his Toyota trying to merge back onto the track after his pit stop and brought out the sixth caution of the day. A handful of teams had not pitted, so the No. 77 team was caught one lap down, but were in a position for the wave around once pit road opened and everyone made their scheduled stops.
Kligerman took the lap-94 restart from the 16th position and advanced up to the 11th spot by the time the next caution occurred on lap 116. After reporting that his Camry was "loose in traffic," he was summoned to pit road for right-side tires and a trackbar adjustment. Quick work by the over-the-wall crew placed the No. 77 machine in the ninth spot for the lap-121 restart.
As he did throughout the day, the talented youngster hammered down when the green flag dropped, advancing to the fourth position on lap 130. He would remain in the third spot until coming to pit road for the aforementioned bad stop on lap 145 and then battle his way back to the seventh position over the final 50 laps to register his second consecutive seventh-place finish.
Kligerman had the third best Average Running Position for the race (7.600) and posted his best Driver Rating of the season (110.5). He turned the fastest lap of the race 16 times and his Average Green Flag Speed of 176.081 mph ranked second to Regan Smith.
Matt Kenseth picked up his second Nationwide Series win of 2013 and the 28th of his career in NASCAR's second division. Paul Menard finished 0.952 seconds behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot. Regan Smith and KBM owner Kyle Busch finished third and fourth, respectively. Justin Allgaier rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were 11 caution periods totaling 50 laps. Ten drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead 17 times. Eleven drivers failed to finish the 29th race of the season.
Kligerman remains 10th in the Nationwide Series championship standings with 29 of 33 races complete, 166 points behind series points leader Austin Dillon. The Kyle Busch owned No. 77 team ranks 13th in the owner's championship standings, 286 points behind the series-leading No. 22 team.
The No. 77 Toyota Racing team will have a home event next week at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Oct. 11 in the Dollar General 300. Live television coverage of Friday's 200-lap event begins with NASCAR Countdown at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.