Saturday, April 29, 2023

XFINITY: Contact off Turn 2 hands Parker Kligerman first last-place finish since 2010


by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Parker Kligerman scored the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s A-Game 200 at the Dover Motor Speedway when his #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet was involved in an accident after 62 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Kligerman’s 66th series start, was his first of the season and first in a XFINITY Series race since October 15, 2010 at Charlotte, 411 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 8th for the #48, the 378th from a crash, and the 616th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 32nd for the #48, the 1,329th from a crash, and the 1,886th for Chevrolet.

In the nearly 13 years between his only two XFINITY Series last-place finishes, Kligerman has successfully navigated a particularly long path into NASCAR’s higher ranks. His series debut came during a nine-win 2009 season in ARCA that saw him come just five points short of Justin Lofton for the championship. Rides with both Penske Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports followed, as did a ride with Brad Keselowski Racing in Trucks, followed by his first series win at Talladega with Red Horse Racing. 

But making the jump to Cup with a struggling Swan Racing in 2013 caused his career to stall, and the years since have seen him piece together part-time deals with mid-pack and lower-funded teams. Some of his most successful efforts included a XFINITY run for Precision Performance Motorsports at Road America in 2017, where he finished a team-best 10th. That same year saw the beginning of one of his most successful partnerships with Charlie Henderson, scoring another win at Talladega and just last year at Mid-Ohio. There was also his stint with the Gaunt Brothers in his return to Cup, including a 20th-place finish at Kansas during a large ad campaign for Fast Checkout. This was in addition to his developing broadcast career, reporting from pit road for NBC Sports.

Kligerman’s persistence paid off, landing him his current ride with Big Machine Racing – his first full-time ride in any of NASCAR’s top three series since 2013. After a year that saw Scott Borchetta’s team struggle with Jade Buford, then earn some solid runs with Nick Sanchez, Kligerman made his first run for the team last fall at Talladega and ran 6th. His most recent run at the same track last week saw him climb from last on the grid to finish 3rd – already his second Top Five and fourth Top Ten of the young season. He also finished the season’s first nine races on the lead lap and under power, placing him a solid 11th in points.

When rain washed out practice and qualifying at Dover, Kligerman secured the pole position based on the rule book. This marked only the second time he had started a XFINITY race in first place, dating back to his series debut at Kansas on October 3, 2009.

The potential for rain caused Spire Motorsports to delay debuting their new XFINITY Series entry for Carson Hocevar, so the #77 Premier Security Chevrolet was withdrawn on Thursday, leaving 39 cars on the entry list. Sent home without taking a lap in their newly-wrapped #74 Troopers United Foundation Chevrolet was Dawson Cram, continuing a streak of bad luck for CHK Racing.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was Stefan Parsons, who for the first time since Richmond reunited with SS-Green Light Racing to drive the #07 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Chevrolet. Parsons would be joined by Timmy Hill, who incurred a pre-race penalty for unapproved adjustments on his #66 Wild Willies Ford. By the start of the race, another two drivers had also dropped back, taking over the 37th and 38th positions a full 1.2 seconds back of Parsons and Hill. Taking 37th, 5.426 seconds back of the lead, was 23rd-place starter C.J. McLaughlin in the #53 Sci-Aps Ford, followed by Chad Chastain, who lined up 34th in the #91 Drive Sober Arrive Alive Delaware Chevrolet, 5.524 seconds back of the top spot.

Chad Chastain took over last at the end of Lap 1, the team telling him to “Keep it wound up, keep that momentum.” He remained last on Lap 7, when the caution fell for Jeremy Clements breaking loose on the apron of Turn 2 in his #51 Fly & Form Concrete Structures Chevrolet. By that point, both Chastain and 37th-place McLaughlin were over 4.5 seconds back of 36th-place Patrick Emerling in the #35 Chevrolet. On Lap 8, Anthony Alfredo took over the spot after pitting his #78 Botticelli Chevrolet. 

The next time by, McLaughlin took over the spot with the recovering Clements now 37th. McLaughlin remained last for the restart, at which point the crew told him to arc the car into the corners more. Regardless, McLaughlin was again losing touch with the pack. He was almost a second back of 37th place when Ryan Ellis nearly drew the caution on Lap 16. Ellis, like Clements, saved his car from a spin in his #43 Costa Oil Chevrolet. Though a competition caution was fast approaching, Ellis had to pit, losing a lap in the process and taking over last on Lap 18.

Ellis remained in last when the competition caution fell a moment early on Lap 21. The reason was Alfredo, who sensed something was dragging under his #78 before his right-front brake rotor shattered down the backstretch, scattering debris in all directions. The debris wasn’t noticed until Alfredo’s car was stopped against the wall in Turn 2 with a flat right-front tire. “I don’t know,” said Alfredo. “I had no brakes.” The crew soon pushed him to the garage, not knowing if they had a replacement brake rotor to install. They discussed borrowing equipment from Sam Hunt Racing, which fielded the #24 and #26 Toyotas. Alfredo discussed the issue further. “I bet you it was dragging or something,” he said. “That's why I was so bound up and slow. Then it blew.” By Lap 60, the team was having Alfredo pump the brakes, but the pedal pushed straight to the floor and wouldn’t come back up. The driver had to wedge his foot under it to pop it back off the floorboard. By then, he was 44 laps down with the other 37 cars still on track.

Meanwhile, Kligerman lost the lead on the first lap and struggled with an ill-handling car. After adjustments, he was still hanging onto the 18th spot on Lap 63 when he was caught off Turn 2 by Corey Heim. Heim, making his XFINITY debut in Sam Hunt’s #24 Toyota Genuine Parts Toyota, then made contact with the left-rear of Kligerman’s car, sending the #48 hard to the left and into the inside wall. With both ends of his car destroyed, Kligerman couldn’t make it back to pit road and climbed out, where he gestured at Heim as he passed. Under what was the fourth caution of the race, Kligerman’s car was towed to the garage, done for the day.

Back in the garage, the B.J. McLeod crew finished repairs on Alfredo’s brakes and sent him back on track, where on Lap 67 he finally completed his 19th lap, his first since his issue. Kligerman had just dropped to 37th, meaning Alfredo could pass him if he turned just 44 more laps. While Alfredo had issues with both the power steering and sensed something dragging under his car, he was back up to speed, and on Lap 78 was encouraged to pass another car on track. Finally, on Lap 111, Alfredo dropped Kligerman back to last place. Alfredo would pass just one more car – Jeffrey Earnhardt’s #44 BZ Mart / ForeverLawn Chevrolet, which lost an engine shortly after the halfway point – before the brake issue ended the #78’s day. Heim took 35th after engine issues of his on with McLaughlin completing the Bottom Five, eight laps down and under power.

The same race that saw Kligerman score his first pole since 2009 and first XFINITY last-place finish since 2010 also saw the race winner end a streak of his own. Eleven years after lapped traffic cost him his first career XFINITY win at Dover in 2012, Ryan Truex dominated, leading 124 of 200 laps for his first win in his 186th combined NASCAR Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series starts. In that time, Truex completed the LASTCAR Triple Crown in October 2019, scoring last-place finishes in one Cup and XFINITY race, plus two in Trucks. His first win came at his home track, the same place where brother Martin Truex, Jr. scored his first Cup win in 2007.

*This is the first last-place finish for the #48 in a XFINITY Series race since March 19, 2022, when Jade Buford wrecked the Big Machine entry at Atlanta. It’s the number’s first XFINITY last-place finish at Dover.
*Kligerman is the first “Dash 4 Cash” competitor under the current format (2011 to present) to finish last in the same event.
*Kligerman is only the ninth recorded driver to be classified first and finish last in the same race. The last time that happened was October 17, 2020, when Noah Gragson was eliminated under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy” after 16 laps around Kanas.

38) #48-Parker Kligerman / 62 laps / crash
37) #44-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 119 laps / engine
36) #78-Anthony Alfredo / 123 laps / brakes
35) #24-Corey Heim / 170 laps / engine
34) #53-C.J. McLaughlin / 192 laps / running

1st) CHK Racing (2)
2nd) Big Machine Racing, B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Emerling-Gase Motorsports, JD Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Toyota (2)
3rd) Ford (1)


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