MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Parker Kligerman will be looking to have a strong run in Saturday’s Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. for one of his biggest fans, his 90-year-old grandmother Doris Hammond. When Kligerman takes the green flag for the 150-lap event, it will be the first time that “Grandma Dottie” – who lives an hour west of the 2-mile oval in Glendale, Calif. – will be in the stands watching one of her grandson’s races live and in person.
Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Nationwide Series program with Kligerman behind the wheel has carried the momentum over from an impressive late season-stretch in 2012 with Kyle and Kurt Busch behind the wheel into early success this season. By posting top-10 finishes in two of the first four races this season, KBM’s Nationwide Series program has now finished inside the top 10 in 14 of the last 17 races, including nine top-five finishes. This year’s team has started off the season stronger than last year’s, earning an average starting position of 9.5 and average finish of 15.8 over the first four races, compared to an average starting position of 16.5 and average finish of 19.8 tallied over the first four events during its inaugural Nationwide Series campaign.
While the team is improving with experience, so too is its 22-year-old driver. Kligerman burst onto the Nationwide Series scene in 2009 as a 19-year-old with high accolades after posting one of the best ARCA Racing seasons in series history, winning nine times and finishing second in points. In his first-ever Nationwide Series race, the Connecticut native captured the pole at Kansas Speedway, becoming just the 10th driver in series history to accomplish the feat. He led seven laps in the race and finished 16th.
The future looked bright, but driving mostly for an underfunded Nationwide Series team over his first 14 Nationwide Series starts, he was only able to collect two top-10 finishes. Since then, after two full seasons polishing his skills in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and now driving in better Nationwide Series equipment, a more experienced Kligerman has posted top-10 finishes in five of his last eight starts in NASCAR’s second division, including a career-best fifth-place finish in his KBM debut at Daytona in February.
A young but experienced Kligerman knows that if he continues to improve as a driver and his No. 77 Toyota crew continues to blossom as a team, it won’t be long before they find themselves in victory lane. How fitting would it be if they were able to accomplish the feat in front of someone who knows a little bit about being older and wiser, 90-year-old “Grandma Dottie?”
Parker Kligerman, Driver of the No. 77 NNS Toyota Camry:
Your 90-year-old grandmother will be seeing you race in person for the first time this weekend, how cool is that? “I’m really excited that ‘Grandma Dottie’ will be in the stands on Saturday. She probably wondered what I was doing at the beginning of my racing career, but she’s always been one of my biggest supporters. Out of all my fans, she is probably the one that is watching my races most intensely and taking the best notes — maybe even better than the notes we take.”
You don’t have a lot of experience at Auto Club Speedway, how will you approach this week’s race? “California is a track that I haven’t raced at a lot, I’ve only raced there once back in 2010 and it really wasn’t the greatest of runs for me. I enjoyed the track, it reminded me a lot of Michigan, which is a track that I’ve had a lot of success at. There are a lot of bumps and a lot of tire wear at California, which are things that separate the guys that know how to race from the guys that don’t. It’s a track where you really have to communicate with your crew chief to figure out the car and get through the bumps. I think that Eric (Phillips, crew chief) and I will be able to do that and hopefully we can come away with a victory.”
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 77 NNS Toyota Camry:
This is your first visit to Auto Club Speedway since 2009, does that present a challenge? “I don’t think that it will be any different than the first four races of the season, because we really don’t have a lot of notes to go off with our Nationwide Series cars. The last time I was at California, it was hot, it was rough and you fought with grip – I suspect that it is going to be the same old California this weekend.”
Despite the end result, you showed a lot of speed at Las Vegas. Will that translate into a fast Camry this weekend? “I think other than at Phoenix, we’ve had speed in all the other races and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to find. We just need to keep tuning on our Camry’s a little bit to get Parker more comfortable with them. All the guys on this No. 77 team have been working really hard and we’re ready to go to California this weekend and have another strong run.”
Parker Kligerman’s No. 77 Toyota Camry:
KBM-11: KBM-11 will make its first start of the 2013 season in Saturday’s Royal Purple 300. The Camry raced four times in 2012, capturing the pole in its debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September and posting two top-five and three top-10 finishes. The last time that the Toyota was on the track, Kyle Busch recorded a fourth-place finish in the November race at Phoenix International Raceway.