Parker Kligerman had one objective heading into today’s race at Kansas Speedway: beat Riley Herbst. Little did Kligerman know, it would be easier than it seemed, but not without both of them coming together in the middle of the race.
While the young Stewart-Haas Racing driver started in eighth, Kligerman, who started 15th, converged with the four-year NASCAR Xfinity Series driver by lap six of the race and the two raced around each other cleanly and thrillingly for approximately 60 laps.
However, on lap 60, a tire carcass from the No. 51 of Jeremy Clements brought out the caution along with the damaged car of SHR teammate Cole Custer who hit the tire carcass, taking him out of contention.
This is where the wheels fell off for Herbst with the accidental help of Kligerman.
On the ensuing restart, Kligerman missed a shift causing Sheldon Creed to take quick evasive action.
Being the driver behind Creed, Herbst did not have enough time to react to the slow No. 48.
“I went to go plug middle,” Herbst said. “I was already wide open at that point, and he was still spinning the tires or still trying to get in gear, and I hit him with my right front, tore the whole right front fender off the tire. From then on, it was over”
The contact caused damage on Herbst’s right-front fender that resulted in a tire going down and sending him multiple laps down, costing him a chance at extremely valuable stage points.
He would fight his way back inside the top 10, but the damage gave way once again and caused another right-front tire to go down, resulting in the No. 98’s unfortunate finish of 23rd.
Herbst reflected that Kansas was the not the only race that resulted in missing the playoffs.
“It doesn’t just start today,” Herbst said. “We had a crew chief change before Nashville. We had a bunch of mechanical failures. I shot myself in the foot a few races, so it’s here or there, and it’s just all adding up and we didn’t make it.”
On the other side of the cutline, Kligerman’s team improved his car over the course of the race, allowing him to work his way within the top five, getting as high as third.
Kligerman held on to his track position after a long green flag run to end the race, but all wasn’t smooth for the No. 48 as he had to worry about the No. 9 of Brandon Jones catching leader John Hunter Nemechek.
“I was the biggest John Hunter Nemechek fan on the planet as I saw the No. 9 fire off,” Kligerman said post-race. “I was like, ‘Oh no! We’ve done all we should do on points. We’re so close.’ I don’t think I could beat the 20 but the nine looks like he might and then he, he obviously the No. 20 was just dominant.”
With Nemechek holding down the lead dominantly, Kligerman secured his first playoff berth in his second full-time Xfinity Series season and Big Machine Racing’s first playoff berth as a team.
“Yeah, I mean, this means a lot,” Kligerman said. “It means a lot to give Big Machine Racing their first playoff berth. What an honor for a young racing team to just go to the progression led by Scott Borchetta and everyone at Spike Light Coolers. You could see it. Come halfway through [the season], we just started clicking it off x executing. Things jelled and suddenly, it was like we should be part of the playoffs.”
Kligerman delivered for a young, hungry racing team, performing decently week in and week out to truly earn the final transfer spot in the Xfinity Playoffs, but on the on the other side of the line, Herbst, the No. 98 team and SHR are left asking what went wrong and what could have been handled differently.
The Xfinity Series will kick off the Round of 12 Friday, Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Broadcasting will be provided by USA Network.
About the author
Wyatt Watson has been an avid fan of NASCAR since 2007 at the age of 8. He joined Frontstretch in February 2023 after serving in the United States Navy for five years as an Electronic Technician Navigation working on submarines. Wyatt writes breaking NASCAR news and contributes to columns such as Friday Faceoff and 2-Headed Monster. Wyatt also contributes to Frontstretch's social media and serves as an at-track reporter.
Wyatt Watson can be found on Twitter @WyattGametime
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