Parker Kligerman Wants To Win ‘So Damn Bad’ for 1st Full-Time Ride in a Decade

2013.

That’s how long it had been since Parker Kligerman was a full-time driver in NASCAR’s top three divisions.

In that season, he ran the full NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He then moved up to the NASCAR Cup Series full time with Swan Racing in 2014, but the team shut its doors after eight races; he hadn’t found a full-time ride since.

Until now.

Kligerman had made Henderson Motorsports his home in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since 2017 with an annual part-time schedule in the team’s No. 75 truck. He won at Talladega Superspeedway the same year for his second win in the series, and he followed it up with a dominant third win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last July.

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With a small team that was famous for having only one full-time employee, Kligerman led over 83% of the race and held off the eventual Truck Series champion Zane Smith in the final laps to win.

And it was a win that got the attention of Scott Borchetta and his team Big Machine Racing.

Kligerman ran at Talladega in the team’s No. 48 Xfinity car last October, finishing sixth. He was then announced as the team’s full-time driver for 2023. It took 10 years and driving for nine different teams, but he was finally back with a full-time gig.

And when I met with Kligerman at Auto Club Speedway on Feb. 25, he said that he, at times, still finds the opportunity hard to believe.

“It’s funny, I’ve at times in the last two weeks remarked that it’s kind of surreal to be doing this,” Kligerman told Frontstretch. “I’ve wanted it, and it’s something I’ve been toward trying to get to. But now that it’s finally here, it’s just sort of surreal at times that I’m racing every week, and we’re racing for points and we’re racing for a championship.”

Kligerman came out the gates hot, qualifying on the outside pole at Daytona International Speedway before falling to a 23rd-place result. He followed it up with his first top 10 of the season at Auto Club. This past week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kligerman got spun early by John Hunter Nemechek but rebounded to finish 11th, putting him 10th in points.

“I feel like over the offseason, I just did a lot of work with my race team, but also personally and mentally for how I was approaching this and what has made me successful in the last couple years part time and then applying that to what will be a full-season campaign,” Kligerman said. “And just in the first week and into this week, I feel like I’ve felt that working because there’s just a sense of calm and confidence within our race team, within myself that it doesn’t seem daunting in any way.

“I feel like I have this level of confidence and calm because there’s nothing that surprises me and there’s nothing that I feel like could happen that I haven’t seen before or been through. The only unknown is really just kind of where we stack up on tracks like [Auto Club] and then being able to improve or get better. Or, if we’re the best, to find a way to be better than that.”

Big Machine Racing scored its first Xfinity win with Tyler Reddick behind the wheel at Texas Motor Speedway last May. Kligerman is still seeking his first win in the series, and his career-best finish up to this point was a third-place effort for KBM at Road America in 2013.

The potential for wins in his opportunity with BMR hasn’t been lost on him.

“I just want to win so damn bad,” Kligerman said. “I know I’m capable of it. I know this race team is capable of it. I want to go win at this level, and then I want to win multiple times. And I want to put us in a position to be a threat for being a part of the Championship 4.

“It’s a long season, and I don’t expect tomorrow or wherever we race to go out there and lap the field or anything like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re a 10th-place car or a 12th-place car, but wherever we are, to just continue to improve and put ourselves in a position to go win.”

Road courses are, statistically speaking, some of the best tracks for Kligerman in NASCAR. He has scored nine top-10 finishes in 14 road course races between the Xfinity and Truck series, a number that includes his win at Mid-Ohio.

With his past performance in mind, the road courses are among the races that Kligerman has circled on his 2023 calendar.

“Well, we’ve got eight of them over [in Xfinity], so we’ve got a lot of chances,” Kligerman said. “So yes, I absolutely feel very confident in those races, and I think for obvious reasons. But when I look at the Xfinity Series calendar, I see 18 or so races that we have an outside chance to run up front and challenge for victory, whether that’s the equipment we have or my confidence level for those racetracks.”

As for any thoughts of the Cup Series and beyond with BMR, Kligerman has been adamant about putting all his focus toward the Xfinity season.

“Oh man, I don’t know,” Kligerman said. “That’s above me. So, I’m just so hyper-focused on winning right now at [the Xfinity] level and building up this team and running to the level I know we’re capable of.”

But just because Kligerman will be running full time for BMR doesn’t mean that he’ll be moving on from Henderson in the Truck Series. In fact, he feels confident that last year’s win at Mid-Ohio will only further the team in 2023.

“Definitely,” Kligerman said. “We reaped the benefits of the 2017 [Talladega] win, and I think for that program, we’re just proving the level of competence amongst that whole program. [Crew chief] Chris Carrier leads in the resources [Charlie] Henderson’s put behind it and how we’ve gone about putting it in the position to go run 12 races in a season, but be really competitive at those races on a very small budget. And so I just think that that’s an achievement in itself.

“Our goal this year is to win at Bristol [Motor Speedway, Henderson’s home track] and win multiple races in the No. 75, and I absolutely think we can do that.”

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And when asked about closing thoughts for the 2023 season that lies ahead, Kligerman said that he’s excited to be back and thankful for the support. He also stated how his journey back to full-time competition has touched friends and fans alike.

“I think if I were to sum my thoughts about the year 2023, I know a lot of people view it as kind of a crazy story to get back here,” Kligerman said. “But to me, it’s just a very cool opportunity.

“And I didn’t think about it until I got here: other people seeing someone dedicated to something like I have for the last 10 years and to finally get the payoff and get the opportunity. I’ve had so many people reach out and say how it inspired them in their own lives with whatever they’re doing, and I just think that’s really cool. I want to be successful for all the people that supported me and believed in me and not let them down.”

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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