After finishing final practice third quick and qualifying 10th for Saturday’s CNBC Prime the Profit’s 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Parker Kligerman and his North American Power Racing team felt they were primed for a strong finish in Connecticut native’s homecoming race. When the race started, an ill-handling car for the majority of the race kept the team just outside the top 15. When a late caution set up a green-white-checkered finish, the team took four tires and appeared to have a chance at salvaging a top-10 finish. When cars in front of Kligerman went four-wide on the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish and went spinning, the young driver slammed the brakes to avoid the melee and ended up sliding into the soggy infield grass. His Camry came to rest stuck in the mud and it took two laps for the safety crews to get his Toyota dislodged from the quagmire. On the final restart he was able to pick up two positions, but in the end he he was left with a disappointing 20th-place finish.
“It was a really tough day for our North American Power Camry — we had a good practice, good qualifying and really thought we had a good run coming, but it all went away on that last green-white-checkered when we got spun out, went into the mud and it took forever to get us out and we ended up 20th,” Kligerman said. “Really thought we had a 10th-place car there at the end — we pulled some pit strategy at the end to get some fresher tires and a lot of the guys that we were with that did the same thing actually got back into the top 10. I’m proud of all my guys, we won’t give up. Most importantly, I have to thank North American Power for being onboard this week. It was really great to bring them into the sport — they had a lot of fun, the car looked great and hopefully they’ll be back.”
In the early stages, Kligerman communicated that his North American Power Camry was “tight in the center and loose on throttle,” as he fell to the back half of the top 15. When debris slowed the field for the first time on lap 35, crew chief Eric Phillips summoned his driver down pit road for four tires, fuel and major chassis adjustments in an effort to provide more security on exit.
The No. 77 Toyota took the lap-39 restart from the 14th spot and moved up one spot by the time the second caution of the race occurred on lap 42. As a long green-flag run ensued after the caution, Kligerman reported that the chassis adjustments hadn’t improved the handling of his Camry and began to slowly slide back in the running order.
Knowing that his driver was in a battle with an ill-handling North American Power Camry, Phillips decided to pit much earlier than the rest of the field and make another chassis adjustment. Kligerman brought his car down pit road on lap 102, where the Kyle Busch Motorsports over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop with an air pressure adjustment and returned their driver back to the track scored one lap down in the 24th position.
On lap 120 when green-flag stops had cycled through, Phillips’ strategy had paid off as Kilgerman was back inside the top 15. The field was slowed for the third time for fluid on the backstretch on lap 122. Phillips decided to make a fuel-only stop and make another major chassis adjustment, as his driver was still lacking security off the corners. Then, when the field was given the one to go sign, the No. 77 team came back down pit road to top off with fuel, giving the team enough to make it to the end of the race.
Kligerman took the ensuing restart from the 19th spot. He quickly gained two positions after the field went back green and was scored in the 17th spot when the fourth caution occurred on lap 130. The Connecticut native took the lap-134 restart from the 17th spot, where he would remain until an accident in Turn 2 slowed the field with just two laps remaining.
With only 19 cars on the lead lap, Phillips ordered up a four-tire stop, with a wedge adjustment, in an attempt to give his driver an advantage for the green-white-checkered finish. Also, in the back of his mind, the veteran signal caller was fairly confident that the race wasn’t likely to be completed during the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish so his driver would have ample time to make any lost track position.
Shortly after the field took the green for the first attempt, the No. 4 car ran out of fuel and brought out the sixth caution of the race. On the second attempt to finish the race, a pack of antsy competitors just in front of the No. 77 North American Power Camry made it four wide and it didn’t work. As cars went spinning, Kligerman nailed the brakes in an attempt to dodge the fracas and went spinning into the grass. With several days of heavy rain making the grass soggy, his Toyota came to rest in the mud and was unable to free itself.
After finally getting hooked up to the safety truck and dislodged from the quagmire, the 22-year-old caught the field just as it was red-flagged, but was already two laps down and scored in the 22nd position. On the final attempt to complete the race, Kligerman was able to pick up two positions and ended his homecoming event with a disappointing 20th-place finish.
KBM owner Kyle Busch picked up his seventh Nationwide Series victory of 2013 in his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 54 Monster Energy Camry. It was his series-leading 58th win in NASCAR’s second division and his 116th trip to victory lane in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions. His JGR teammate Brian Vickers finished 0.465 seconds behind him in the runner-up spot. Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Brian Scott finished third and fourth, respectively. Michael Annett rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were seven caution periods totaling 27 laps. Three drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead six times. Nine drivers failed to finish the 101-lap event.
Kligerman lost two spots in the championship point standings and now ranks 10th, 69 points behind series leader Regan Smith. The Kyle Busch owned No. 77 entry also lost two spots in the owner’s point standings and are now 162 points behind the series-leading No. 54 team.
Kligerman and his No. 77 Toyota team head to Chicagoland (Ill.) Speedway in Joliet for the STP 300 July 21. Live television coverage of Sunday’s 200-lap event begins with NASCAR Countdown at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
-Kyle Busch Motorsports PR