MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Parker Kligerman and his No. 77 Bandit Chippers Racing team are northwestbound and down as they head to the Smoky Mountains for Saturday’s Jeff Foxworthy Grit Chips 300 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
The Bandit’s goal in the 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit was to assist his partner Cledus in outrunning Sheriff Buford T. Justice and deliver 400 cases of beer from Texarkana, Texas to Georgia in 28 hours. Kligerman, with the assistance of crew chief Eric Phillips, will set his sights on outrunning 39 other drivers over the course of 200 laps and deliver the trophy atop the media center at “The World’s Fastest Half Mile” to the display case inside Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM).
This weekend’s arena should provide the talented youngster with ample opportunity for success, as he has finished inside the top 10 in all four of his career starts at the high-banked oval, including a runner-up finish in last year’s Camping World Truck Series race. Bristol is also the venue where he earned his first Nationwide Series top 10, driving from the 43rd position to a ninth-place result in the August race in 2010.
After running into road blocks the past two weeks, Kligerman and his Bandit Chippers Racing team will be in hot pursuit of a strong finish Saturday at the high-banked half-mile oval nestled in the Smoky Mountains.
Parker Kligerman, Driver of the No. 77 NNS Toyota Camry:
You’ve had strong runs at Bristol in both Trucks and Nationwide, are you excited to be going there this weekend? “Bristol is one of the tracks that I find really fits my driving style, so it’s one of my best tracks. It is a finesse track – you have to take care of your race car and let the race come to you. At the same time, it’s one of the most exciting and fun places. It provides great racing, a cool atmosphere and when you run well there you feel very accomplished. Bandit Chippers is back on my Camry for the first time since Daytona, so they will be our good luck charm and we can give them another strong run.”
What are the keys to getting around Bristol? “You have to be methodical, be smart and try to slow everything down at a place where everything happens so fast. Bristol is unique in that it is very high speed for how small it is. A lot of people used to say that it’s like a fighter jet in a fish bowl. You don’t want to attack the race track or the race as much, you want it to come to you and work with your crew chief throughout the race to develop your car. You try not to put yourself in a bad position in the first 90% of the race and then the last 10% really go after it once everyone has played their cards.”
Despite having some problems the last few weeks, are there some positives you can take out of those races? “Absolutely – when you look at what we’ve been doing on this No. 77 Toyota Camry, we’ve had a ton of speed. Even in Phoenix where weren’t as fast as we were in Vegas, we still had a solid top-10 car. To contend for the championship, you are going to have to have an average finish of 7.5 to 8.5, so if you can run in the top 10 every week you’ll be there come Homestead. We absolutely have the speed to run in the top 10, and at Vegas with our mile-and-a-half program we showed that we had the speed to run in the top five, if not win those races. Speed is one of the hardest things to find in this sport, so when you have it, it is something that you can hang your hat on and be proud of. At the same time, you have to finish races to finish first, so we need to work on some things. We’ve got a great group of guys and we have a good outlook. We put ourselves in a bit of a hole, but we can definitely fight our way out of it.”
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 77 NNS Toyota Camry:
Do you expect it to be single-groove racing Saturday? “Yes, it will be mostly a single grove on the top like it has been the last few years. A few guys will be able to run the bottom, but it will be hard to pass. The challenge is that it is hard to run the top at the beginning of practice, because it takes having the track get rubbered up before you can work your way up there.”
How do you overcome a couple of tough weeks? “We’ve had issues the last two races, but they probably were more self-induced than anything. I don’t think it’s a real concern because we’ve had fast race cars, cars that were top-10 capable. We just need to keep working hard, doing the things that we know how to do and make sure that we dot all of our i’s and cross all of our t’s.”
Parker Kligerman’s No. 77 Toyota Camry:
KBM-3: KBM-3 will make its first start of the 2013 season in Saturday’s Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300. The Camry raced five times in 2012, posting top-three finishes, including a third-place finish at Bristol in August. The last time that the Toyota was on the track, Kyle Busch recorded a fifth-place finish in the September race at Dover.