MOORESVILLE, N.C. – The planting calendar for the first week of June in Iowa suggests planting seeds that need warmer soil, including corn, squash, cucumbers, green beans and melons. Parker Kligerman is hoping to add checkered flags to that list after Saturday’s DuPont Pioneer 250 at Iowa Speedway in Newton.
After collecting his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last October, Kligerman planted the checkered flag in the infield grass as part of his victory celebration, signifying that he had conquered the track. The 22-year-old driver has been continuing to improve each and every week in his first full-time campaign in the Nationwide Series and as he descends upon Iowa this weekend with his No. 77 Toyota Racing team, he is confident that this could be the day that he is able to plant his mark as a winner in NASCAR’s second division.
The last time that the Connecticut native visited the .875-mile oval nestled in the confluent cornfields of Central Iowa, he captured the pole with a new Truck Series track record and led a race-high 107 laps, but was relegated to a 23rd-place finish after blowing a right front tire late in the race. Although his last visit didn’t end as anticipated, the talented youngster was able to register two top-10 finishes at the “Hawkeye State” track last season, a 10th-place finish in the July truck race last year and an eighth-place finish in the Nationwide Series race last May.
Kligerman enters this weekend’s 250-lap event coming off an 11th-place finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. He has now finished inside the top 15 in seven straight races and nine of 11 events this season and enters this weekend sixth in the championship point standings. His 276 points earned over the last seven races are second to only point’s leader Regan Smith’s 308 over that span.
With confidence heading to Iowa – from a consistent seven-race stretch this season and a knowledge of how to find speed on the Rusty Wallace-designed track – and only one Sprint Cup Series regular entered in the field, the timing is right for Kligerman to plant his mark on the Nationwide Series and prove he is one of the most talented drivers amongst the crop of young talent in NASCAR’s feeder divisions.
Parker Kligerman, Driver of the No. 77 NNS Toyota Camry:
With your success at Iowa, how much do you enjoy returning to the track? “I love Iowa because last year I led the most laps in that race. I have the track record in the Truck Series and it’s just one of my favorite race tracks. It’s one of the coolest race tracks we go to and I think it’s one of those places that as drivers, unanimously we can say that if the Sprint Cup Series or any of our series were to go anywhere we would say, ‘Go to Iowa.’ The fan support is great and makes racing there a lot of fun.”
Do you enjoy stand-alone Nationwide race weekends? “Yes and no — I think my thoughts about being a part of the Nationwide Series is that it’s all in an effort to impress the Sprint Cup Series. That’s why I’m here. I’m not here to be a Nationwide driver, I’m here to be a Sprint Cup driver. To do that, I’ve got to impress the Sprint Cup garage and impress the owners to hopefully get a shot in the Sprint Cup Series. When we go off and do a stand-alone race, to me it’s one of those things that you say, ‘Cool, it’s nice.’ But in a lot of ways I want to be in front of the Sprint Cup guys and make sure they’re watching and seeing what’s going on.”
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 77 NNS Toyota Camry:
How would you evaluate the first third of the season for your team? “I think we’ve been ok. I feel like we’ve stumbled a few times and could be better in points. I’d probably be a lot happier if we were in the same spot in owner’s points as we are in driver’s points, but you have to keep in mind that two or three of the teams ahead of us have had Cup guys in their cars most of the season. Hopefully, we can gain some points on some of those guys this month.”
What does your team have to do to take that next step and turn top-10 finishes into top fives and wins? “The biggest thing is not hurting ourselves — we had some issues with part failures trying some stuff earlier in the year. We got away from that and we haven’t had any issues since, but we’ve had some miscues on pit road that have hurt us.”
Parker Kligerman’s No. 77 Toyota Camry:
KBM-09: KBM-09 will make its second start of 2013 in Saturday’s DuPont Pioneer 250. The Camry has four top-five finishes across seven career starts, including a fifth-place finish at Iowa last May with Kurt Busch. The last time it was in action, Kligerman was relegated to a 19th-place finish at Phoenix after experiencing an issue with the brakes mid-race that resulted in contact with the wall.
-Kyle Busch Motorsports