DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — When the closing laps of a superspeedway race near the end of the regular season arrives, everyone vying for the win has different agendas.
Unfortunately for Parker Kligerman, who entered the Wawa 250 at Daytona International Speedway Saturday night (Aug. 25) on the outside of NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff field looking in, a number of them converged — on stopping him from winning.
In the race’s second and final overtime, Kligerman was definitely in the mix, chopping it up with the other leaders while going for his first series win. But eventual race winner Justin Allgaier (who also has a teammate, Brandon Jones, battling in points with Kligerman) and runner-up Sheldon Creed, both winless on the season, certainly weren’t about to cut him any slack.
It was no better when he looked in the rear-view mirror on the final restart, where he found the Ford of Cole Custer. No big deal, just the teammate of Riley Herbst, the very driver Kligerman was trying to overtake for the 12th and final spot in the postseason.
Given all that, he could hardly be blamed that his feeling of pride for coming home fourth overrode any regret he had for not pulling off a victory.
“It’s just … you come down late in that race and the 7 [of Allgaier] is in the best position,” Kligerman said. “I got the 2 [of Creed] who doesn’t want me to win, the 11 [of third-place finisher Daniel Hemric] who doesn’t want me to win … The 00 [of Custer] on the last lap, I’m trying to back up to him, I’m like ‘Why will this guy not back up to me, and come up to my bumper?’ And then I’m like, ‘oh, he’s the 98’s teammate.’ And I’m like this is the worst position you can possibly be in. So I just felt like a lone duck.”
At least publicly, Custer denied any explicit effort not to push Kligerman, even though he knew that Herbst had mechanical issues early in the race that eventually relegated him to a 24th-place finish.
“The last lap I just really couldn’t suck up very well,” Custer said. “Yeah, you want the best for the 98 [of Herbst], but at the end of the day, I just couldn’t get to the front up there at the end.”
Kligerman now heads to the last two races of the regular season, on tracks where there’s almost guaranteed to be much less chaos, with Herbst chasing him instead. After surviving a Saturday where everything was aligned against him and leaving Daytona with a strong result, he felt great about his chances of not just holding on to a spot in the playoff field, but being able to make some noise if he does — even if that elusive first win remains just out of reach.
“We put ourselves consistently in position to be there and to be forcing teams to make those decisions, and I like that,” Kligerman said. “So we can take solace in that, and we’ve got a nice point buffer going to Darlington and Kansas, two places I feel very confident about being able to replicate the speed we’ve had for the last 11 weeks.
“So we keep this up, going into the playoffs, I feel really confident about our ability to transfer.”
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