In his first visit to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway since winning last year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, Parker Kligerman was looking to repeat the feat in Saturday’s Nationwide Series Aaron’s 312. After leading three times for four laps, all in the second half of the event, Kligerman had his Camp Horsin’ Around/Bandit Chippers Camry right where he wanted it as the field took the white flag.
He was tucked in behind race leader Austin Dillon, hoping that the two would remain at the front when they returned to the tri-oval and then be able to slingshot his way to the win. Coming down the backstretch, a pack of cars with huge momentum caught them from behind and as the two shifted lanes in tandem, in an effort to block them, they became disconnected. The No. 77 Toyota had fallen just outside the top 10 by the time the field made its way through Turn 4, until a seven-car melee ensued and the Connecticut native came out of the pileup in sixth place as the caution waved and ended the rain-shortened event.
“This Camp Horsin’ Around/Bandit Chippers Toyota Camry with Austin Dillon in front of me on the last restart we were flying and we were going,” said Kligerman, who was the top-finishing Toyota driver. “It was like, ‘Alright this will work out.’ But, once those pods behind us got a run on our draft we were a sitting duck. We just talked about all of the things we could’ve done different here and there but at the end of the day to come out sixth after that big wreck there at the end and getting split up from Austin — to come out sixth and fifth at Daytona in our first two superspeedway races, that’s a win for us. We’ll just take these championship points and move on.”
After rain delayed the start of the event for several hours, Kligerman took the green flag from the 18th starting position. That’s where he remained when the first caution of the day occurred on lap 13. Crew chief Eric Phillips summoned his driver to pit road, where the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop and returned their driver to the track scored in the 23rd position.
The Camp Horsin’ Around/Bandit Chippers Camry teamed with the No. 99 Camry of Alex Bowman for the majority of the event, as they did in the first superspeedway race of the year at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, riding around near the middle of the pack in the early stages waiting for the right time to make their move. After the third caution of the day slowed the field on lap 71, Kligerman came down pit road for another four-tire stop and then just before the field went green, made a second visit to his pit stall to top off with fuel.
The Talladega Truck Series winner took the lap-78 restart from the ninth position and just three laps later he took the lead for the first time. He would remain running inside the top 10 for the majority of the final 32 laps, finding himself in the third position on lap 93 when an 11-car accident slowed the field for the fifth time.
With darkness quickly approaching, NASCAR officials announced that the race would be shortened by seven circuits, from 117 to 110. Kligerman and Bowman connected with each other and looked to make a charge to the front of the field. The No. 77 Toyota was in the third spot again when a one-car spin slowed the field on lap 106. Officials then announced that because of the darkness the field would get one attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, instead of the normal three attempts.
Regan Smith picked up his second career Nationwide Series win and first of 2013. Sprint Cup Series regulars Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch were scored second through fourth when the final caution ended the race. Nationwide Series regular Justin Allgaier came home fifth.
There were seven caution periods totaling 29 laps. Sixteen drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead 47 times. Eighteen drivers failed to finish the 110-lap event.
Kligerman, who moved up four spots to fourth in the driver’s point standings, and his No. 77 Toyota Racing team head to Darlington (S.C.) Raceway for the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 next Friday, May 10. Live television coverage of the 147-lap event begins with NASCAR Countdown at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.