MOORESVILLE, N.C. – In last April’s 250-lap event at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, Kurt Busch and the No. 54 Monster Energy team captured the first NASCAR Nationwide Series win for his younger brother’s startup program. This time around there is a new driver behind the wheel, a new crew chief calling the shots, a new number on the side of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ (KBM) Nationwide Series entry and a new race sponsor for this year’s Richmond spring event, but Parker Kligerman and his No. 77 Toyota Camry team are hoping to replicate the team’s historic win from last year and make a trip to victory lane at the end of Friday’s ToyotaCare 250.
One thing that will be the same for this year’s race is the primary chassis that the team is bringing. First-year Nationwide Series crew chief Eric Phillips and his Toyota Racing team will unload KBM-09, which is the same Camry that the elder Busch drove to victory in last year’s event. Kligerman – who currently sits sixth in the Nationwide Series driver point standings – piloted the Toyota earlier this season at Phoenix, but was relegated to a 19th-place finish after experiencing a brake issue in the race and collected the wall.
Despite having many personnel changes this season, Kligerman and the No. 77 are strides ahead of where KBM’s Nationwide Series program was at this time a year ago. After six races last season, the No. 54 bunch ranked 15th in the Nationwide Series owner’s championship standings, had recorded just one top-10 finish and posted an average finish of 19.5. This year, the team enters Friday’s race ranked eighth in the owner’s championship standings, hs already recorded two top-five and three top-10 finishes and currently boast an average finish of 13.2.
Kligerman knows a thing or two about replicating the elder Busch brother on the track, having tested his Sprint Cup Series cars at Penske Racing from 2009 to 2011. Now, the talented youngster hopes to imitate his boss’s brother once again and bring another Richmond trophy home to KBM Friday night.
Parker Kligerman, Driver of the No. 77 NNS Toyota Camry:
What is your outlook heading into Richmond? “Richmond is a track that when you think about it, you think about the word ‘excitement.’ This year it is really special, having ToyotaCare as the sponsor of the race and also having Toyota as a sponsor on our car. It gives you a little extra incentive to go out and run well. Hopefully, I can run as well as I did the first time I was there – qualified seventh and ran in the top 10 all day until I made a slight mistake on pit road. If I can alleviate mistakes like that, I think we can go out and put this Toyota Camry in victory lane. KBM was able to get their first win in the Nationwide Series last year in this race with Kurt – it would be a great time to get our first win this year.”
How would you describe the layout at Richmond? “Richmond is a very unique short track. It has a lot of speed and a unique design in terms of being a D-shaped oval — because of that shape; it has two vastly different corners. Turns 1 and 2 are wide – it’s a sweeping corner and you generate a lot of speed down the straightaway before you enter it. Drive off is one of the things that we fight with that corner, in terms of being able to get the power down on exit. Turns 3 and 4 are more of your traditionally-banked short track corners and you roll a lot of speed through it into the center. A car that can roll speed through the center and then be able to put the power down, is a car that can definitely contend for the win at Richmond.”
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 77 NNS Toyota Camry:
Will you be using anything from last year’s notebook when KBM’s Nationwide Series team won this same race with Kurt Busch? “You definitely can. We are actually bringing the same Camry that Kurt won with last year with a similar setup that has a lot of the same pieces and parts — it’s a base setup from our Truck Series program that we have had a lot of success with on the short tracks the last few years. Last year’s team ran really well in both Richmond races, so we just tweaked on a few little things where we thought they had a few minor issues and could use a little improvement. Hopefully, that will allow us to be a little bit better.”
Parker Kligerman’s No. 77 Toyota Camry:
KBM-09: KBM-09 will make its second start of 2013 in Friday’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond. This is the same Camry that Kurt Busch scored KBM’s lone Nationwide Series win with in last year’s April Richmond race. It has four top-five finishes across seven career starts. The last time it was in action, Kligerman was relegated to a 19th-place finish at Phoenix after experiencing an issue with the brakes mid-race that resulted in contact with the wall.