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Kligerman Unruffled By Big Jump to Nationwide Series

Nick Bromberg | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 2 2009
Parker Klingerman to jump into a Nationwide Series car this weekend at Kansas. (Photo courtesy of the ARCA Series)

Parker Kligerman will jump into a Nationwide Series car for the first time this weekend at Kansas. (Photo courtesy of the ARCA Series)

By Nick Bromberg | Senior Correspondent
RacinToday.com

Kansas City, Kan. – Parker Kligerman has never driven a Nationwide Series car.

Why is that important?

Well, because Kligerman, 19, is attempting to make his Nationwide Series debut at Kansas Speedway Saturday afternoon.

Yes, you read the first sentence correctly. He’s doing so without so much as turning a practice lap in a Nationwide car.

“The testing rules make it tough,” Kligerman said.

Is Kligerman nervous?

“Not at all. There’s no real pressure. I can go learn and have some fun,” Kligerman said.

Not even the prospect of driving for Roger Penske in NASCAR’s second tier series fazes Kligerman.

“Everything I do; if I have no expectations I can go into everything with an open mind. We’re not disappointed if we’re not where we expect to be and we’re not ecstatic if we’re not over where we expect to be. We’re just doing well and we’re excited to be where we’re at,” Kligerman said.

But yes, Kligerman admits that there were some expectations driving for Cunningham this season. Not from himself, but from others.

“I think there were a little bit of expectations on me to do well and once we got past that first win, I think at this point we could have had 10 wins,” Kligerman said.

Justin Lofton, Kligerman’s main rival for the ARCA championship, is quick to point out the quality of Kligerman’s equipment.

“He’s good. He’s got an awesome organization behind him in Cunningham Motorsports and Penske, so I think anyone could really be fast in that stuff,” Lofton said.

Instead of 10 wins, Kligerman’s had to settle for eight instead, and second place in the ARCA points standings behind Lofton.

The eighth win came at Kansas Thursday, when he passed Lofton on a green-white-checker restart after Lofton spun the tires as the green flag waved.

“I know his tricks. He has a trick to stop and go at the line,” Kligerman said.

The Kansas win – in which he dominated – cut Kligerman’s deficit to 15 points going into the final race next weekend at Rockingham Speedway.

Not bad for a kid who just graduated high school and is currently taking classes at UNC-Charlotte after moving to North Carolina in August.

Kligerman started out racing open wheel cars, and did so for a year with his dad’s somewhat reluctant help.

“I had to beg him, plead with him to help me,” Kligerman said. “He’s not a big race fan.”

From there he moved on to racing midget cars, and hooked up with Cunningham Motorsports at about the same time that Cunningham signed a development deal with Penske.

When that happened, Kligerman’s original dream of going to Europe with the goal of racing in Formula One vanished. And that’s fine with him.

“I went oval racing because that’s the only place in America that a kid without money can make it,” Kligerman said.

But only for so long.

Despite Kligerman’s success this season in ARCA, his next step is still to be determined because of the dreaded sponsorship issue.

Kligerman played it coy about his future plans. He’s got one more Nationwide race – at Homestead – on his schedule, but after that, things are up in the air.

Penske Racing has already committed to running two full time Nationwide Series teams for 2010. One for Brad Keselowski, in the No. 22 that Kligerman will be driving on Saturday, and Justin Allgaier in the No. 12.

Allgaier made the same ARCA to Nationwide transition this season.

“I’ve spoken to Justin Allgaier a little bit. I think it’s the same car with less horsepower and a little different tire,” Kligerman said.

“I think he’s done an excellent job. It’s such a new program. Obviously Penske has run a Nationwide car before, but they’ve never run a full season.”

Chris Carrier, a former Sprint Cup crew chief has been Kligerman’s crew chief this season, will be in charge of the Nationwide team on Friday and Saturday.

“I think that’s one of the most important things about what we’ve done. We’re getting rid of as many variables as we can. Having the same crew chief and some of the same crew members – at that point I can just focus on the race car,” Kligerman said.

It’s a race car that isn’t guaranteed in the field because of a lack of owner’s points. And 53 cars are on the entry list.

“That adds a little bit of pressure and makes us focus a little bit more on qualifying,” Kligerman said.

But don’t count on any of that pressure coming from Kligerman himself.

Nick Bromberg | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 2 2009
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