NASCAR

Kligerman ready to make his name in NASCAR

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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KANSAS CITY, Kan.

With his beige pullover and bowl of microwaveable chicken noodle soup in hand, Parker Kligerman resembles most students on a college campus. That's understandable, since during the week Kligerman can be found at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, where he aspires to study marketing. On weekends, however, Kligerman is honing a different skill — being a race-car driver. And on the track, the 19-year-old Penske Racing development driver is not only passing with flying colors, he's earning honors along the way. Through a partnership with Cunningham Motorsports, Kligerman leads the ARCA RE/MAX Series in race wins with eight — the latest coming Thursday in the Kansas Lottery 150. The win clinched the 2009 Bill France Four Crown title — a separate fund that rewards the driver with the best performances on a dirt track, road course, short track and speedway. In Kligerman's dirt debut at DuQuoin, he outran one of his mentors, Kenny Schrader, and five-time winner Frank Kimmel. Impressive stuff from a kid who was racing Midgets just two years ago, before he was picked up by Cunningham. Penske Racing is offering Kligerman the opportunity to make his debut in the Nationwide Series this weekend. "If you had told me that we'd be doing a Nationwide race before the end of the year, I would have said, 'No way,'" Kligerman said. "I had only done two stock car races and one oval race in my entire life. "With the great equipment that I've had in (ARCA), I've been able to learn a lot and with all the drivers I've been able to learn at Penske Racing. It's accelerated my learning curve a lot. I'm glad we're here." Kligerman credits crew chief Chris Carrier with his ease in transitioning to stock cars. Carrier compares Kligerman to a young Tim Richmond "without the issues," or more recently, Carl Edwards. "He's a natural talent," Carrier said. "He's been able to adapt very quickly anywhere he goes. He's just incredible at diagnosing a new environment. He's never been to Kansas (Speedway). He's never been in a Nationwide Series car. He's never been on Goodyear tires or drove with this kind of motor. "It's so much fun. You feel like you're on a whirlwind with him. Considering his age and experience level, I've never seen a driver analyze a situation this quickly — and have fun doing it. It's hard to believe sometimes that he's just 19." During Kligerman's progression this season, Penske teammate David Stremme offered hints for getting around Daytona, and the youngster finished seventh. Kurt Busch provided assistance to the rookie at Pocono, where Kligerman finished sixth before rushing home for his high school prom.
"I've seen Parker in action and been impressed with his skills," Busch said. "With the program at Penske Racing, running ARCA, you're going to have superior equipment. That's always a kid's dream to go out there and showcase his talent in good cars and then be able to produce good results. "He's an up-and-coming star who has his head on straight and is doing the right things on the racetrack and that's the most important part." Before Friday afternoon, Kligerman had never made a lap in a Nationwide Series car. He had the benefit of learning the car on the way to his ARCA win. After 36 laps inside his Nationwide ride, he was seventh-fastest on the speed chart. In the second practice, Kligerman jumped to second-fastest. Scott Speed topped the list with a lap of 171.510 mph. Kligerman's best lap was 171.494 mph. Kligerman said he knew after his first two races in a Midget that "NASCAR (was) where (he was) going." Like many kids who started in go-karts and moved through the Skip Barber and the Formula TR Pro Series, visions of a future in Formula 1 permeated Kligerman's daydreams. Then reality sank in — as soon as he realized how limited the sponsorship opportunities were. That won't be the case for Kligerman at Penske Racing. The organization's principals have been charting his course since the expansion of its development program, which includes Justin Allgaier in the Nationwide Series and Dakoda Armstrong, who will join Kligerman for the ARCA finale at Rockingham. Kligerman will finish the season in the No. 22 NNS Dodge at Homestead. "This is a very massive organization with all the race teams," Kligerman said. "It's awesome to be a part of such an iconic organization in American racing." On this weekend, Kligerman is parked in a nondescript transporter in the "back 40" of the Nationwide Series garage. He's soaking in the experience. It still hasn't sunk in that he's reached the next stop to his dream. "We're not parked in the good part of the garage," Kligerman joked. "But I walked over there earlier with Justin (Allgaier), so if I see the 18 or something, I'll know we're here. For now, we're just another car at the racetrack." Soon everyone will know that Parker Kligerman is here.
Tagged: Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, David Stremme, Frank Kimmel, Scott Speed, Justin Allgaier, Parker Kligerman

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