HAMPTON, Ga. – Rolling off from the 13th starting position in Saturday’s RAPTOR King of Tough 250, Parker Kligerman seemed like a man on a mission.
Despite not starting in either NASCAR Xfinity Series race ran last year at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the 32-year-old Westport, Connecticut native showcased his veteran experience and grit that nearly netted him the 2008 ARCA Menards Series championship in 2008.
In spite of finishing 11th in Stage 1, a rather bogged down segment of the race, Kligerman won Stage 2, an impressive feat for the No. 48 Big Machined SPIKED Coolers Chevrolet Camaro team.
Suddenly, the ninth year NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor looked like one of the prime contenders. Aside from Austin Hill, a superspeedway specialist and championship contender, Kligerman appeared to be a formidable challenger.
When a late race pit stop dropped Kligerman from a top 10 running position to hovering in the top 20, the mild mannered Constitution State driver received some encouragement from Patrick Donahue, his crew chief.
Sometimes, a little pep talk proves as vital as four fresh tires, fast car and a confident driver. Following the pit stop, Kligerman sliced his way through the field like Chad Little in the 1995 NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona.
Finding the open lane like Jayson Tatum on the hardwood court, Kligerman rallied to the second spot, a prime position to snatch his first Xfinity win.
On the final lap, Kligerman appeared to be in the best spot to capture the victory, driving to the outside of Hill’s No. 21 Chevrolet. With both drivers seemingly set for a side-by-side finish, Daniel Hemric, the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, made slight contact with Kligerman as the field worked their way to the stripe.
From there, it was an eyes wide shut moment for the affable Kligerman as he faced his competitors while his No. 48 ride spun sideways. After crossing the stripe, Kligerman was t-boned by Brennan Poole, the race’s 13th place finisher.
So. damn. Close. Felt like we had made every right move and were going to be a photo finish with the 21. P4
So proud of this team and speed we have – even brighter days ahead 🤙
Thanks @SpikedCoolers @bigmchnracing
I’m so grateful to be here
— Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman) March 19, 2023
Released from the infield medical center, Kligerman, who confirmed that he was OK, had a diplomatic perspective about the last lap incident with Hemric.
“I just saw the replay and it looks like he was trying to go the top and maybe even to push me and just misjudged it,” Kligerman said. “It’s just unfortunate because it felt like we could race it. I wanna talk to him because you maybe kinda thinking, ‘Maybe he wanted to push us to win. I don’t know.’ And he just misjudged it.”
Rather than point the blame on Hemric, the young, yet experienced driver chalked the incident up to the little margin for error in today’s superspeedway style races.
“That happens. It’s a game of inches out there,” he said. “It’s one inch, you don’t quite catch it. It’s one inch, you do whatever to win the game. So, in this game, one inch there a difference and maybe we all go across the line first and we have our first win of the year. But we won a stage, so that was huge!”