MOORESVILLE, N.C. – After recording his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) top-five finish last week in the season-opening event at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Parker Kligerman heads west with confidence on his side and his manufacturer adorning his KBM entry. Kligerman will carry the Toyota “Let’s Go Places” paint scheme on his No. 77 Camry in Saturday’s Dollar General 200 fueled by Amerigas at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway (PIR), in the first of three March races on the west coast.
With a strong run at Daytona last week, Kligerman and his crew picked up right where KBM’s Nationwide Series team left off at the end of 2012. KBM’s NNS entry has posted top-five finishes in five of the last six races and qualified in the top five in four straight. Not only is the team surging, but its young driver’s comfort level behind the wheel of a Nationwide Series is increasing each time he hits the track. The 22-year-old driver has finished 12th or better in each of his last five NNS events, spread across the last three seasons.
Kligerman is hoping that his third career start at PIR in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions will be the charm. The Connecticut native, who is making his first NNS start at the 1-mile tri-oval, has found misfortune in both of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts and failed to finish both events.
While the driver may not have left the Arizona track with desirable finishes, crew chief Eric Phillips has taking a liking to the unique layout at PIR. Phillips’ drivers have visited victory lane in the last two Truck Series races in “The Valley of the Sun.” Last year, Phillips guided Brian Scott to his second career Truck Series victory and in 2011 the Illinois native called the shots when Kyle Busch led the final 107 laps en route to the win.
As the Nationwide Series travels to places west, Kligerman and his No. 77 Toyota Racing crew are hoping to continue their hot start. While they know that they are bound to experience some bumps along their 33-race journey, the young driver and his crew know that it is eminent not to dig themselves in a hole early this season if they hope to be championship contenders come November.
Parker Kligerman, Driver of the No. 77 NNS Toyota Camry:
How big was starting the season off with a strong run for you and your new team? “It was a big deal for everyone involved with this No. 77 team, including our sponsors. Being a new race team, having a strong result right out of the box definitely speeds up the gelling process between driver and crew and is a big confidence booster. I know that I have a crew that can get the job done and I proved to them that I can get the job done behind the wheel”
Is Phoenix a unique track? “I like Phoenix — it definitely is unique. There are two vastly different sets of corners and having a dogleg through the back straightaway is something very unique in NASCAR. All of those things combined make racing there a really fun experience for a driver, but at the same time, it is a challenge for the crew chief with the setup. With being recently repaved, the track has a lot of grip and it is pretty fast. It definitely puts a premium on the communication between a driver and his crew chief that will allow them to find a little bit more grip than everyone else out there — a little bit of grip can go a long ways.”
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 77 NNS Toyota Camry
You’ve won the last two Truck Series races at Phoenix. How much of your setup will you be able to transfer over? “We’ve been really good in the Truck Series the last few years – led a lot of laps. Some of the stuff we will be able to apply to our Camry — shocks and some of the front geometry stuff still apply. Aero wise, the trucks are so much different and because of the drag, you use a lot less brake in the truck than in the car. Kyle had a really strong run there in the fall race, so we are taking some of the stuff that was on his car that race — I’d say we have a little hybrid of our truck stuff and that setup.”
Parker Kligerman’s No. 77 Toyota Camry:
KBM-9: KBM-9 will make its first start of 2013 in Saturday’s Dollar General 200. The Camry scored KBM’s lone Nationwide Series win last season with Kurt Busch behind the wheel at Richmond in April. KBM-9 has four top-five finishes across six starts, including a second-place finish with Kyle Busch in the 2012 season-ending race at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.