Parker Kligerman: you never forget your first love
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (June 18, 2013) - They say that you never forget your first love. For 22-year-old Parker Kligerman, his first love was road course racing. Until the opportunity to sign with one of NASCAR's premiere teams came about as a teenager, he dreamed of one day becoming a professional road racer. This weekend's Johnsonville Sausage 200 Nationwide Series at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. will be a best of both worlds scenario for Kligerman, as he takes to the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course that he dubs as "one of the finest circuits we have in America" in his No. 77 Toyota Camry.
Kligerman didn't grow up in a racing family -- he simply became enamored with the sport after discovering it while channel surfing as a nine-year-old. A few years later, he convinced his parents to buy him a go-kart and so began a journey that just like a road course -- has gone through several twists, turns and elevation changes.
After humble beginnings in the Norwalk Karting Association -- a local go-kart track set up in a parking lot -- the Connecticut native has quickly emerged through a variety of racing series to become one of the top racing talents in our sport. He graduated to the Skip Barber Racing Series at the age of 15, winning all three events he entered, and the following year the young man headed west to compete in the Formula TR Pro Series. He captured the championship in that series collecting 11 wins and three runner-up finishes across 14 races.
He made his NASCAR debut in October of 2009 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, capturing the pole and leading seven laps while posting a respectable seventh-place finish in the Nationwide Series event. Since that time, he has made 89 starts combined between the Camping World Truck Series - where he competed full-time in 2011 and 2012 and picked up his first NASCAR win at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last October - and the Nationwide Series - where he ran a limited schedule from 2009 to 2012, before becoming a series regular this season with Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Kligerman has been knocking on the door of his first Nationwide Series win. He was leading with less than 10 laps remaining at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February, led four laps and was running second as the field took the white flag at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in May and last weekend was forced to surrender a 1.5-second lead with just over 10 laps remaining after his team's late-race gamble with Mother Nature came up just short.
The talented youngster always dreamed of racing at Road America and that dream will come true when the field takes the green flag for Saturday's 50-lap event. As his worlds collide and he returns to road course racing, it would only be fitting if another dream is realized and the marriage of his first love and current passion ends happily ever after in victory lane this weekend.
Parker Kligerman, Driver of the No. 77 Toyota Camry:
Talk about your path to NASCAR and how it started in road course racing.
"I started in road course go-karts and then I moved into open-wheel racing -- my first-ever race was at Lime Rock in the Skip Barber cars. Then, I raced an open-wheel car called a Formula TR or Formula Renault on the west coast, racing tracks in California, Utah and Nevada. After that, I moved to Indiana and raced midgets. So I only did road courses for about a year-and-a-half, but it was really my first love in racing. I was hoping it would turn into a career, but the opportunity in NASCAR was just too good to pass up."
This will be the first time you've raced at Road America, are you looking forward to it?
"Road America is the track for Americans that is considered as one of the finest circuits we have here. To get a chance to finally get out there and race on it is a dream come true -- a big deal. It' s a track that I played on video games numerous times and grew up watching races there on television -- a place you always wanted to race at as young driver. It has a feel that you are going somewhere when you are racing at it, because it is so long and you go through so many facets of trees in open areas and such. It gives you a real feeling of speed and definitely has the feel of an old-fashioned track."
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 77 Toyota Camry:
It's been awhile since you've been to a road course, are you excited about this weekend?
"It has been quite a while -- probably Watkins Glen with the Nationwide cars in '05 -- but I've done a fair amount of it and have always enjoyed it. Road course racing is where I started my professional career with the Trans-Am Series. Elkhart is probably one of the first places I went as a kid, so it will be neat being back there. I'm excited about this weekend -- we had a pretty good test at VIR (Virginia International Raceway), so I think we'll have a pretty good piece for the race."
Does strategy come into play more for a crew chief at a road course race?
"Yes and no, it's a little more cut and dry -- you play the race backwards and pit as soon as you can typically. Sometimes on ovals, tires and different things play into factor a little more. Track position is so important in road racing -- if you can get away and just run your laps and not be stuck around a bunch of cars; you'll have a better day."
Parker Kligerman's No. 77 Toyota Camry:
KBM-01: The No. 77 Toyota Racing team will unload the first-ever Nationwide Series car built in the Kyle Busch Motorsports Chassis Shop, KBM-01. The Camry produced top-10 finishes in all three road course events in 2012 and also finished 11th in the March race at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway. The Toyota was originally raced by Kimi Räikkönen as a NEMCO Motorsports entry at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May of 2011, where the former Formula One champion qualified 22nd and finished 27th in his series debut.
Kyle Busch Motorsports