In the early stages of Saturday’s Dollar General 200 fueled by AmeriGas at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway, Parker Kligerman alerted his crew that he was experiencing a persistent vibration while applying the brakes. Despite the issue, Kligerman was running inside the top 15 until lap 132, when his brakes went to the floor as he entered Turn 3. The young driver attempted to deliberately spin his Camry, hoping to avoid contact with the outside wall, but the right side of his car – from the door number to the right rear bumper – smashed into the outside wall.
The race remained under green-flag conditions, but with significant right side damage, Kligerman was forced to bring his car down pit road to avoid further problems. He was able to stop inside his pit stall, where his Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) over-the-wall crew cleared the fenders, put on four fresh tires and filled his Camry with fuel. The No. 77 Toyota returned to the track two laps down, scored in the 24th position. Over the course of the final 50 laps, the 22-year-old driver was able to pick up five positions in the running order and ended his first Nationwide Series start at the 1-mile oval with a hard-fought 19th-place finish.
“This wasn’t the run we were looking for out here in Phoenix — this place has been tough on me the last few years,” said Kligerman, who failed to make it to the finish in his two Truck Series starts at the Arizona track. “We wanted to come out of here with a top-10 run and it appeared that we were going to be able to do that for the first 130 laps, until we had a brake malfunction going into (Turn) three and that was the end of that. We were able to fight our way back to a 19th-place finish — which isn’t terrible considering the circumstances. We’re still fifth in the point standings and ready to move on to Vegas and prove that we’re a top-five team.”
The Connecticut native started the 200-lap event from the 11th position, but had fallen back to the 15th position by the time the second caution of the race occurred on lap 38. Kligerman communicated to crew chief Eric Phillips that his Camry was “loose on entry and tight on exit.” When pit road opened, the KBM over-the wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop, which included a track bar adjustment in an attempt to improve the handling of the No. 77 Toyota.
Shortly after the lap-43 restart, Kligerman alerted his crew for the first time that he was experiencing a vibration while braking. Over the course of the next 50 laps, he remained just inside the top 15, but the vibration persisted.
After a one-car incident on lap 102 slowed the field for the fourth time. Phillips summoned his driver to pit road. The crew put on four fresh tires, filled the car with fuel and made another track bar adjustment in attempt to make their driver’s Camry more stable on corner entry. Kligerman returned to the track scored in the 11th position for the lap-109 restart.
The latest adjustment appeared be a positive one, as Kligerman posted lap times comparable to all of the cars scored inside the top five, except Kyle Busch, who was the class of the field throughout the event. The Connecticut native remained just outside the top 10 until he experienced a brake malfunction on lap 132 and smacked the outside wall in Turn 3.
After visiting pit road under green-flag conditions, the young driver returned to the track two laps down scored in the 24th position. Despite severe damage to the right side of his Camry and subpar brakes, Kligerman gingerly mustered along as the race approached the final 50 laps.
Busch was able to work his way past Kligerman, putting his KBM entry three laps down, shortly before a one-car spin slowed the field for the sixth time on lap 151. With the championship chase in mind and five competitors scored two laps down, Phillips elected to keep his vehicle on the track to be “wave around” eligible. When the race resumed on lap 157, the No. 77 Toyota was scored two laps down in the 24th position.
Kligerman had worked his way up to the 22nd position when a two-car accident on the backstretch slowed the race for the final time on lap 172. When pit road opened for lap cars, the KBM over-the-wall crew went to work again, administering another four-tire and fuel stop, including the third track bar adjustment of the day.
The race restarted for the final time on lap 176, with KBM’s young driver scored in the 23rd position. Over the final 25 laps, Kligerman was able to maneuver his wounded Camry around four more competitors, who were also two laps down, to bring home a hard-fought 19th-place finish.
Busch picked his Nationwide Series-leading 52nd career victory, his first in NASCAR’s second division since 2011. Sprint Cup Series regular Brad Keselwoski finished in the runner-up position and Justin Allgaier, the top-finishing series regular came home third. Trevor Bayne and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were seven caution periods for 38 laps. Four drivers led at least one lap, exchanging the lead six times. Nine drivers failed to finish the 200-lap race.
Kligerman, who lost two spots in the Nationwide Series driver point standings, heads into next week’s Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway ranked fifth in the championship standings. Live television coverage of the 200-lap event begins with NASCAR Countdown at 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.