After battling an ill-handling Camry in the first half of the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, Parker Kligerman found himself two laps down in the 23rd position with just over 50 laps remaining. After a series of chassis adjustments had finally brought Kligerman’s Toyota to life, the No. 77 bunch began a remarkable comeback. The team took a wave around on lap 196 to get back to one lap down and then had put themselves in position for the “Lucky Dog” when a three-car accident occurred on lap 212. The Connecticut native returned to the lead lap and was scored in the 20th position for the final restart with 12 laps remaining. Within five laps he had advanced into the 10th spot, but a hard-fought battle to remain in the top 10 came up just short in the final laps and the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) driver ended an eventful day with an 11th-place finish.
“I’m so proud of all the guys on this No. 77 Toyota Camry team — nobody ever gave up and we were able to come from two laps down with 50 laps to go and ended up on the lead lap in 11th at the finish of this ToyotaCare 250,” said Kligerman, who sits eighth in the Nationwide Series driver’s point standings after seven races. “That’s how you get things done. Persevering on days like these is how you put yourself in the fight for the championship come Homestead.”
After making his two qualifying laps Friday afternoon, Kligerman reported that the splitter of his Camry was hitting the ground in the corners and was only able to secure the 30th starting position. When the race began Friday night, he had advanced to the 25th position by the time that the first caution of the race occurred on lap 25, but communicated to crew chief Eric Phillips that his splitter was still on the ground and limiting the drivability of his machine.
With time on pit road being limited on a short track, Phillips knew his over-the-wall crew would have to make quick work with the substantial changes he was about to make and was willing to accept the subsequent penalty for pitting early. Kligerman brought his Camry down pit road, where his team opened the hood and made major wedge adjustments that elevated the front end of their car and lowered the read end.
Having to start at the tail end of the field for pitting early, the No. 77 Camry took the lap-40 restart from the 34th position. During a long green-flag run Kligerman communicated that his car was turning better, but leader Kevin Harvick was setting a blistering pace and worked his way around the young driver.
A one-car accident on lap 101 slowed the field for just the second time. The KBM team took the opportunity to put on four fresh tires and make an air pressure adjustment in an effort to continue to improve the handling for their driver.
The race went back green on lap 106 with the No. 77 Camry scored one lap down in the 22nd position. By the time the third caution of the race occurred on lap 151, leader Elliott Sadler had put Kligerman two laps down. The over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire stop with a wedge adjustment and returned their black machine to the track scored two laps down in the 26th spot.
Kligerman was running 23rd when the field was slowed for the fourth time on lap 191. Phillips and his young driver discussed strategy over the radio and decided that the staying out for the “wave around” would be the best bet in an effort to try and salvage a decent finish.
The move paid off when just seven laps later another caution occurred. The team pitted for four fresh tires and fuel and Kligerman was scored as the first car one lap down in the 22nd spot for the lap-209 restart. The comeback effort continued to gain momentum when another caution occurred on lap 211 with the No. 77 Toyota in the “Lucky Dog” position.
The 22-year-old driver was scored in the 20th position for the final restart of the race with just 12 laps remaining. With all the adjustments made during the race having improved the drivability of his Camry, he was able to maneuver his way aggressively towards the front and with just five laps remaining was on the cusp of turning a miserable day into a top-10 finish. With just two laps remaining the No. 43 machine of Reed Sorenson was able to take the 10th spot away and Kligerman crossed the stripe with a hard-fought 11th-place finish.
Brad Keselowski picked up his first Nationwide Series win of 2013. Sprint Cup Series regular Kevin Harvick finished 0.718 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up position. KBM owner Kyle Busch finished third in his Monster Energy Camry, while Brian Vickers and Regan Smith rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were eight caution periods totaling 57 laps. Five drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead 11 times. Eight drivers failed to finish the 250-lap event.
Kligerman and the No. 77 team, who rank 11th in the Nationwide Series owner’s point standings, head to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for the Aaron’s 312 next Saturday, May 4. It will be the Connecticut native’s first trip to the 2.6-mile superspeedway since picking up his first NASCAR victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series fred’s 250 last October. Live television coverage of the 117-lap event begins with NASCAR Countdown Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.