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NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

Parker Kligerman Returns to Victory Lane in Mid-Ohio

Parker Kligerman rock and rolls his way to Mid-Ohio victory lane. (Photo: Taylor Kitchen | The Podium Finish)

Parker Kligerman rock and rolls his way to Mid-Ohio victory lane. (Photo: Taylor Kitchen | The Podium Finish)

While Parker Kligerman’s 32nd birthday is a month away, the Westport, Connecticut native treated himself to an early present at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

Kligerman, competing part-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Henderson Motorsports’ No. 75 Tide/Food Country USA Chevrolet Silverado entry, asserted himself as one of the prime contenders at the 2.258-mile road course.

Kicking off the weekend with a second place starting position, the calculative stock car racer quickly contended for the lead in stage 1.

Although pole sitter Corey Heim led the opening four laps, Kligerman took the lead on the next circuit, holding the advantage for the next 36 laps. In fact, Kligerman scored the stage 1 win.

Once stage 2 was underway, it was a harbinger for the remainder of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 150, particularly with Kligerman and Truck points leader, Zane Smith, dueling for the lead.

For the final 28 laps, it was “The Kligerman and Smith Show.” Given the aggressive nature in today’s NASCAR, it was a rare, clean battle between two young, competitive racers vying for the win.

Like a thrilling movie, the two drivers were scrappy, tenacious but respectful. It was a cat and mouse game to see who’d outdrive and outwit the other.

With three laps remaining in the race, Kligerman retook the lead for good, besting Smith by a slim margin of 0.119 seconds.

The normally mild mannered Kligerman processed his emotions over a myriad of reasons. Aside from the difficulty of winning a race in NASCAR, he reflected on his team’s uphill battles.

“We do this on a fraction of these other teams and it’s just a testament that if you put a group of really talented human beings together, it’s an unbelievable what you can accomplish,” Kligerman said to The Podium Finish’s Stephen Conley. “And we pick our tracks and races, places where we feel I can make a difference.

“My team, all our talented individuals, can make a difference and that’s road courses, you know, some of the short tracks we go to, superspeedways, which we’ve won at before. Like that’s how we pick ’em because we’ve got to be smarter, not even smarter, we just have to be really cerebral about how we go about doing things because you know, we’re part time for a reason. We don’t have the funding to run full time.”

Despite the logistics surrounding Kligerman’s part time schedule, he acknowledges his team’s work harder and smarter approach.

“We gotta maximize our resources, do the best we can when we make sure the places we go, we have all our ducks in a row,” he shared. “And, the magic starts with Chris Carrier and Hendersons and the support they give us and all the employees at Food Country USA. But, I think it just goes to [show] that’s why you see the enthusiasm because we know what it just a large thing we just accomplished.”

Against All Odds

Certainly, Kligerman showcased his prowess in the No. 75 Chevy. (Photo: Taylor Kitchen | The Podium Finish)

Certainly, Kligerman showcased his prowess in the No. 75 Chevy. (Photo: Taylor Kitchen | The Podium Finish)

Given Kligerman’s feel good story alongside his scrappy team, he considered a chain of events that nearly derailed his racing career.

“Yeah, I said it kind of there in victory lane, but this is really a second chance,” he said. “Two years ago, my Cup team, my Cup deal went away. The Hendersons called me, said they were shutting down.

“And for the first time in my life, 29 years old, I basically looked at mirror and thought, okay, that’s it like, this is over everything you’ve done since you thought you were nine years old, everything you’ve, you know, dreamt about, thought about setting your life up to do is gone. And you tell me kind of look there and think what’s next? Like, what do I do now?”

Considering the challenges facing Kligerman and his Truck team, particularly the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, fate dealt a kind hand to both during the summer of 2020.

“Later that year, I got a call from the Hendersons,” he recalled. “They said, ‘Actually, we wanna go racing again.’ And you know, when I got to Pocono in 2020, I stood there in the grid and I just said to myself, ‘Enjoy every second cuz now you know what it’s like without it. It can disappear so quickly.’

“And it just sort of… I don’t know if it unleashed something inside of me. Maybe it took away some point [that] was holding back. I don’t know, but I feel like I’ve been driving better than I ever have ever since.”

Like Romain Grosjean of the NTT INDYCAR Series, Kligerman’s career has risen like a phoenix. Simply put, the second stanza of Kligerman’s NASCAR career has been quite sensational.

Aside from the latest chapter of Kligerman’s racing efforts, it’s also about the Tennessee-based team’s resurrection.

“This team has risen up as well,” he noted. “We’ve just been building and getting better and better and finding ways to improve. And, you know, it’s led to this moment of dominating a race, having an awesome finish and winning. So, I’d say it’s a second chance and it feels that way.

“Like I feel like someone the other day, my manager through the first portion of my career, my coach, Bob Perona, he said to me the other day that your second career is way better than your first. And I was like, yeah, it just feels that way. Doesn’t it?”

Chapter two of the Parker Kligerman story has been intriguing given his resiliency and optimistic attitude. Naturally, he was able to reflect on his win with an intriguing thought.

“Some people, it’s funny. Like life, you have people who are really good early on and then there’s late bloomers and maybe I’m a late boomer,” he observed.

Full Circle

After planting the flag, Kligerman reflected on his victory. (Photo: Taylor Kitchen | The Podium Finish)

After planting the flag, Kligerman reflected on his victory. (Photo: Taylor Kitchen | The Podium Finish)

Moreover, Kligerman is the first Truck winner at Mid-Ohio, a feat that he did not realize until the post race conference.

“Yeah, I actually, I didn’t think about that,” he revealed. “That’s cool. You know, I’ve been here so many times, so like, this is what’s so crazy. I came here in 2013 for the inaugural Xfinity race, ran in the top five the whole time, got wrecked out the way at the end.

“And then every time since, I’ve been here on pit road, pit reporting. I’ve pit reported about, I don’t know, eight races here, 10 races, uh, between IMSA and the Xfinity series. And I’ve stood there on pit road and like, that’s, I love, you know, I’ve been so lucky to have the job I’ve had on TV because it’s kept me relevant. It’s kept me in the sport.”

Taking advantage of any opportunities in racing, Kligerman has excelled as a pit reporter and personality for NASCAR on NBC and various motorsports programs on NBCUSA and Peacock. Still, it’s understandable how Kligerman had a bit of a human nature moment while pursuing his much anticipated third Truck win.

“I think it’s a major reason why I’ve gotten the rides I’ve gotten and been able to get [to] race cars,” he said. “But, there’s no doubting that for the last eight years, I’ve stood on pit road and watched people do things that I know I can do as well or better and have to sit there and not do it, right? And it’s like, you can see it, you could almost touch it, but you can’t do it.

“And that’s been a really, really tough thing. And I’d say, you know, a couple years ago was some of the toughest time of my life. Like when I thought driving side was gone, I’m doing the TV side. I’m wondering, ‘What am I doing in my life? Like, why, you know, where is this going?’ To now, you know, just feel like the driving side is really working and the two work together really well. I feel like I’m performing at a high level on both. And so that’s just a really cool mix.”

The Art of iRacing in Mid-Ohio

iRacing truly mirrors real life. (Photo: Taylor Kitchen | The Podium Finish)

iRacing truly mirrors real life. (Photo: Taylor Kitchen | The Podium Finish)

Above all else, Kligerman’s victory was a shared experience. Beyond the No. 75 team celebrating a special win at Mid-Ohio, it was a triumph that the sim racing community enjoyed for one of its biggest advocates.

Notably, Kligerman praised the iRacing platform for his successes at Mid-Ohio and recent efforts.

“So, it’s funny. One of the things I’ve been doing in the last couple months is people look at our part time schedule as like a detriment. I’ve been trying to turn it into a positive where I start working on the next race weeks ahead of time, where I’ll go on iRacing,” Kligerman offered.

“And I’ll literally just run an hour after working out, do an hour at that track, try to do things do an hour the next day, do an hour, three days later, do an hour the Monday leading up. And all the other guys get to use manufacturer sims and they’ll do it like the Tuesday leading up. I’m building it out like two weeks ahead of time.”

Practice can make perfect considering how Kligerman gained valuable reps on the virtual counterpart of the famed road course before this weekend.

“iRacing is amazing and helped me do that,” he shared. “And I literally came up to my owner or this morning and said, ‘Man, it’s so cool. My preparation’s working.’ I went and just ran laps at Mid-Ohio. I went and ran a race on iRacing at Mid-Ohio. And I dominated that led by like 45 seconds, which was crazy.

“And then I showed up in practice, it was immediately up to speed. And it’s like everywhere, we’ve been doing that. And I’ve been doing that preparation. It’s been that way. And Steve Myers and all those guys, I’m great friends, all the iRacing folks.”

Ultimately, Kligerman sang his praises for iRacing and how it’s brought the motorsports world closer for those who may pursue a career in this sport or want a further understanding of stock car racing.

“I love that service,” he said. “I think it’s the most incredible thing that’s been created for motorsports in a long time. And it has so much more to offer [with] the world they expanded [with] the constant stuff that’s hopefully coming.

“I just think there’s no sport in the world that you can experience so closely to what we do. Like you can on iRacing and sim racing. So, it’s been big for me, and I love that community and I just look forward to seeing it continue to grow.”

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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