Parker Kligerman was running 11th in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway and charging towards the front of the field when a parts failure in the rear end of his No. 77 Toyota Camry led to a shredded left rear tire. After a quick stop in the garage and three subsequent visits to pit road to address the issue, Kligerman found himself several laps down and limped home to a disappointing 30th-place finish.
“I’m really proud of the guys and all the effort they put in to have a fast car here this weekend, unfortunately our rear end started to fall apart and we had to just ride around to salvage what we could,” said Kligerman, who was making his 21st career Nationwide Series start. “Our Toyota Camry showed a lot of speed — if it wasn’t for the parts failure, I’m confident that we had a top-five car.”
After rain washed out Friday’s practice sessions, Saturday’s qualifying was cancelled to allow the field to get in one practice before the start of the race. Kligerman spent the majority of the session ranked inside the top five on the speed charts before ending the tune-up seventh on the leaderboard.
With the field being set by last year’s Nationwide Series owner’s points, per the NASCAR rule book, the No. 77 team started the race from the eighth position based on the points Kyle Busch Motorsports’ (KBM) entry earned in the 2012 season. By the time the first caution of the race occurred on lap three, the Connecticut native had advanced into the fifth position.
Kligerman communicated to crew chief Eric Phillips that his No. 77 Toyota was loose handling as he dropped to the back half of the top 10 as the race proceeded in the early stages. The talented youngster was scored in the 10th position when the competition caution flew on lap 35. When pit road opened, he brought his Camry down pit road where the KBM over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire stop, which included a track bar adjustment to address the loose-handling condition. The crew returned their driver to the track scored in the 13th position.
Shortly after the lap-36 restart, Kligerman alerted his crew of a big vibration coming from the underneath of his Toyota. He had subsided to the 15th position when a two-car accident in Turn 2 slowed the field for the third time on lap 55. His crew took advantage of the caution, filling the No. 77 with fuel and making another large adjustment to the track bar.
As the race approached the halfway mark, the early-race adjustments had improved the handling of Kligerman’s Camry and the 22-year-old driver began maneuvering his way back towards the top 10. With 70 laps remaining in the 200-lap event, he was running 11th – tucked in behind the ninth and 10th competitors – when he alerted the crew that smoke was making its way inside the cockpit of his Toyota. Two laps later, the issue had caused a blown left rear tire and he was forced to bring his No. 77 down pit road. With the crew believing the issue was more than just a flat tire, the young driver was instructed to take his car to the garage area.
After a quick stop in the garage and three subsequent stops on pit road, the KBM crew was able to provide a temporary solution to the broken part and return their driver to the track. Kligerman was able to limp to the finish, but ended the race 11 laps down to the leader in the 30th position.
Sam Hornish Jr. picked up his second career Nationwide Series victory. Kligerman’s owner, Kyle Busch, drove his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) entry to a runner-up finish, crossing the stripe 1.1 seconds behind Hornish Jr. Busch’s JGR teammates, Brian Vickers and Elliott Sadler finished third and fifth, respectively, and Trevor Bayne came home in the fourth spot.
There were eight caution periods for 37 laps. Nine drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead 19 times. Six drivers failed to finish the race.
Kligerman heads into next week’s Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway ranked 12th in the Nationwide Series championship standings. Live television coverage of the 300-lap event begins with NASCAR Countdown at 1:00 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.