Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Nationwide Series program entered Friday night’s Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta with high hopes of being able to compete for their first win of 2013. The team unloaded a brand new Camry for the race and came into the event with a wealth of notes from a successful two-day test they participated in at the 1.5-mile tri-oval earlier in the month. After experiencing a variety of issues – a flat tire in qualifying, a broken alternator in the early stages and an untimely caution, just after their first-scheduled pit stop of the race — the No. 77 Camp Horsin’ Around team found themselves two laps down just past the halfway mark of the race. The team was able to claw their way back to the lead lap, but just as they did, the rain moved in and ended the race prematurely, leaving the team with a hard-fought 16th-place finish.
“It was an eventful race — broke an alternator early on and wasn’t able to use the blowers and fans and then the caution came out right after we made our first stop and put us a lap down early,” Kligerman said. “Because of the alternator issue, we had to replace the battery and weren’t able to take the wave around like the other cars and that put us behind the eight ball the rest of the race. At one point we were two laps down, but Eric (Phillips, crew chief) and the guys on this No. 77 Camp Horsin’ Around Camry never gave up – we replaced the battery twice, used a wave around to get one lap down and then fought our way to the lucky dog to get back on the lead lap. Once we got back on the lead lap, I felt like we had a Toyota Camry that was capable of a top-five finish but the rain picked up and we weren’t able to finish the race.”
Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) Nationwide Series program’s eventful day began in qualifying when Kligerman punctured a tire after running over a piece debris. The soft right rear tire caused the No. 77 Camry to be tight and the team, who were sixth quick in final practice earlier in the day, was only able to post the 12th fastest time. After NASCAR officials examined the damage, crew chief Eric Phillips and his squad were able to replace the tire and maintain their position for the start of the race.
Upon race start, Kligerman remained just outside the top 10 as he communicated that his Camry was “loose in and tight off.” The car began to come to him as the race proceeded caution free in the early stages and by the time he came down pit road for the first time on lap 50, he had maneuvered his way up to the ninth spot. The over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop and returned him to the track.
Five cars hadn’t made their first stop when the No. 87 team’s engine expired on lap 54, leaving KBM’s Toyota one lap down in the 18th spot. With the alternator issue leaving the battery with low volts, the team couldn’t chance leaving their driver on the track and were not able to take the “wave around” when the lead lap cars pitted. To add insult to injury, Kligerman communicated that since the pit stop he was experiencing a severe vibration. When pit road opened for lap-down cars, the team replaced the battery, tightened all lug nuts and returned the No. 77 back to the track.
As Kligerman exited pit road and accelerated to catch up with the rest of the field under caution, he radioed to Phillips that the vibration still existed, so the team came back down pit road and replaced all four tires. When the race went back green, the team was scored one lap down in the 21st position.
Shortly after the lap-59 restart, the young driver communicated that the voltage meter had stabilized and the vibration no longer existed. Another long green-flag run ensued and at the halfway mark of the 200-lap race Kligerman had made his way up to the 17th position, but remained a lap down. As lead lap cars made their scheduled stops, he returned to the lead lap momentarily and was scored in the fifth position when he came down pit road for his four-tire and fuel stop on lap 117.
The No. 77 Camp Horsin’ Around Camry returned to the track just in front of the race-leading No. 22 car. Kligerman was able to hold off a hard-charging Brad Keselowski for a couple of laps, but on lap 121 the Sprint Cup Series champion made his way around his former driver, putting him two laps down.
A debris caution occurred two laps later, leaving Kligerman two laps down in the 17th position. The field was slowed for the third time on lap 133 for debris and when the lead-lap cars elected not to pit, Phillips summoned his driver to his crew’s attention for four fresh tires, a wedge adjustment and a full tank of fuel, knowing that the move would put his team in position for a “wave around” when the leaders finally pitted.
On lap 142, a one-car spin slowed the field and the lead-lap cars made their scheduled stops. Kligerman took the wave around and was scored one lap down in the 16th position for the lap-146 restart. When the race resumed, the talented youngster was posting lap times equal to the top-five cars as he held “The Lucky Dog” spot. When slight precipitation began falling on lap 164, the caution came out and the No. 77 team had fought their way back to the lead lap.
When pit road opened, the Connecticut native brought his Camry to the attention of his over-the-wall crew, who changed batteries once again as part of their four-tire and fuel stop. He caught up to the field and felt rejuvenated now that he was back on the lead lap and knowing he had a fast Camp Horsin’ Around Camry. As the rain continued to fall, NASCAR red-flagged the event and ordered the cars to pit road. Shortly after the precipitation intensified and the race was deemed official with just 170 of the 200 scheduled laps completed.
Keselowski picked up his second Nationwide Series victory of 2013 and the 22nd of his career. Elliott Sadler came home in the runner-up spot, followed by NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point’s leader Matt Crafton, who finished third in his Nationwide series debut. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were five caution periods totaling 25 laps. Seven drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead 12 times. Ten drivers failed to finish the 170-lap event.
Kligerman’s eventful night cost him one spot in the championship point standings, where he now stands seventh, 46 points behind series leader Regan Smith. The Kyle Busch owned No. 77 entry also lost two positions in the owner’s point standings and are now 10th, 131 points behind the series-leading No. 54 team.
The No. 77 Bandit Chippers Racing team heads to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway July 5 for the Subway Firecracker 250. Live television coverage of Friday’s 100-lap event begins with NASCAR Countdown at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
-Kyle Busch Motorsports PR