Parker Kligerman, driving the No. 30 SMS Audio Toyota, stands on the grid before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in April, 2014. It has been his latest NASCAR Sprint Cup race to date.
INDIANAPOLIS – When Parker Kligerman raced his way into the starting lineup for the season-opening Daytona 500 for Swan Racing, the 23-year-old driver thought it would be “up, up and away” this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Less than two months after that, however, the team had financial issues due to lack of sponsorship. Cole Whitt moved over to BK Racing and Kligerman was out of a ride on April 23.
Kligerman is Kurt Busch’s standby driver at Stewart-Haas Racing as the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion prepares to be the first driver in 10 years to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Kligerman will run practice laps for Busch and will stand by to drive the No. 41 Chevrolet in Charlotte if Busch is delayed on returning from the Indianapolis 500.
Kligerman was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday and Monday, as he explores opportunities for a ride in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“I’ve been to the 500 as a fan in 2007, and in 2008, I lived out here for the summer when I was racing midgets (cars), I lived a block away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so I’ve been here before and have always been interested in the 500 as a fan,” Kligerman said. “But to be here and be a little more behind the scenes is great.
“Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports have been nice enough to show me around a little bit. I’ve been hanging out with Simon Pagenaud and it’s been fun. It’s cool to see the speed. Yesterday I went up to the spotter’s stand in Turn 1 and saw the guys get a little loose and see how the cars react, and that was awesome. I’m enjoying it.”
At one time, Kligerman’s background would have made him an ideal candidate for an IndyCar Series ride.
“I actually started racing in open-wheel cars,” Kligerman said. “I did Formula Renault my first ever season and Skip Barber. I wanted to go over to Europe, but just couldn’t afford it. Stock car (racing) was a place you could go as a young kid and get an opportunity. I was able to take that opportunity and get to the top of that sport. I have a love for open-wheel cars and it’s something that me and my manager Bob Perona have talked about. I’ve been given a bit of a vacation right now, so I’m taking the opportunity as a race fan and a racer to see what’s out there and what the possibilities are.”
Kligerman came to stock cars as a Team Penske protégé. He also watched, with great interest, AJ Allmendinger’s return to IndyCar with Team Penske in 2013, Juan Montoya’s move back to IndyCar this year and Busch’s attempt to compete in the Indianapolis 500 this season.
That got Kligerman to think, “Why not me?”
“AJ and I are good friends and we’ve talked about it a lot,” Kligerman said of Allmendinger. “His year last year, where he took a step back from full-time stock cars, is the example of how to do it. Go out and drive as many different cars as you can and do as well as you can and enjoy racing. I think he really enjoyed that.
“I was talking to Roger (Penske) yesterday and we were talking about that same situation. He saw me and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ and I said, ‘Just looking around.’ And he said, ‘Well AJ did it last year.’ We laughed about it. It’s almost harkens back to the days when guys drove everything. I think guys are looking to do more of that because we get bored doing the same thing week in and week out.”