As Parker Kligerman puts it, he’s in an “odd” position in NASCAR. That makes every opportunity to compete in a race even more meaningful.
Such was the case in Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway, running for Henderson Motorsports, a Virginia-based team with one full-time employee.
For the past six years, Kligerman has ran a part-time Truck Series schedule in Henderson’s No. 75 truck. Dating back to 2014, he’s been running a partial schedule across the top three national touring series.
Sounds easy, huh? Wrong.
Kligerman was the last driver to qualify in to Friday’s NextEra Energy 250. But compared to years past in qualifying, the 31-year-old took a different approach, despite seeing his number trickle down the scoring pylon to 31st.
“I was very calm, relaxed,” Kligerman said of what he was thinking during qualifying. “I think it goes back to being grateful.”
Kligerman noted that in practice he felt the No. 75 truck was slow, similar to last year’s practice session. But if he were to miss the show, his thought process was, “If we miss it, it will be just like 2017 and we‘ll go win Talladega.”
Fortunately for the No. 75 team, Kligerman turned a lap just quick enough to lock into the field. And throughout the 250-mile event, he methodically made his was through the field, ending the first stage in 22nd. By the end of the second stage, he was up to 16th position.
From there, it was game on.
Per usual at superspeedways, Kligerman was in position to battle for the win in the late stages, first pushing Grant Enfinger. Then, the No. 75 Chevrolet got in behind John Hunter Nemechek coming to the white flag when a 19-truck melee ensued. Kligerman escaped, setting him up to restart fourth on an overtime finish.
Behind Zane Smith, Kligerman pushed the No. 38 truck out to the lead, but wasn’t able to drop down to block the two ThorSport Racing teammates of Ben Rhodes and Christian Eckes. In his words, he was a “sitting duck.”
“I went as far as I thought I could go,” Kligerman said of bumping Smith. “I saw the [Nos.] 98 and 99 break up on the bottom, so I thought we had enough momentum, we‘ll clear them both, because I knew the [No.] 38 was going to do what he did. I would have done the same thing in his position.
“I hope he can repay the favor somewhere else this season, maybe Talladega.”
Once Smith took the white flag, a caution flew for an incident involving Kris Wright and Jason White. Kligerman was scored fifth, his 20th career top-five finish in the Truck Series.
Straight up, Kligerman enjoys the thrill of superspeedway racing. It allows him a realistic opportunity to win, as he’s done twice in the past — once with Henderson.
“That‘s 90% of the battle, just to enjoy coming here and doing this,” Kligerman stated. “Every time I go superspeedway racing, the whole week and for 90% of the race, all I‘m thinking about is that exact moment: The last lap, what are you going to do, what position you want to be in.
“In this one, I thought if I could push the [No.] 38 and had a little more momentum I thought we were going to be in a good position because we could have beat him to the line.”
Even so, Kligerman will get another opportunity to compete for a superspeedway victory later this year at Talladega Superspeedway. Not bringing any sponsorship to the table, that’s all the Connecticut native can ask for.
Kligerman said, “I know I‘m in such a rare position in this sport right now to have the chance to do this. You can‘t take the smile off my face when I get to walk through that tunnel and know I‘m driving and not working in another capacity. Going well or not, I‘m having fun.”
And most certainty, battling for checkered flags makes his “rare position” worth it.
“It makes buying the $4,000 coolsuit I just bought this past week worth it, the $6,000 seat I‘ve got to buy the other day, the $3,000 in disability insurance,” he said. “All of the things add up to make it that is not a very lucrative affair, but it‘s something that‘s a passion of mine.
“I want to do this until they take the wheel from me and I can no longer hobble into that damn truck. As long as the Henderson family will have, I‘ll be here.”