The Frontstretch: 2012 NASCAR Driver Review: Parker Kligerman by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday January 14, 2013

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2012 NASCAR Driver Review: Parker Kligerman

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday January 14, 2013

 

Parker Kligerman

2012 Rides: No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Dodge, No. 7 Red Horse Racing Toyota

2012 Primary Sponsors: Cooper Standard, Reese Towpower, Draw-Tite, Mopar, O’Reilly Auto Parts, PlanitDIY.com, Laitner, Camp Horsin’ Around, Toyota, Red Horse Racing
2012 Owners: Brad Keselowski (BKR), Tom DeLoach (RHR)
2012 Crew Chiefs: Doug Randolph (BKR), Chad Kendrick (RHR)

Stats: 22 starts, 1 win, 8 top 5s, 15 top 10s, 2 poles, 2 DNFs, 5th in points.
Best Finish: 1st – Talladega (October).
Average Finish: 9.2.

2012 Team Ranking: 2nd of 3. Red Horse Racing as a whole had a tremendous season, fielding trucks for five different drivers and visiting Victory Lane with each of them. But while Kligerman posted some impressive numbers in his short tenure with the team (six top 5s, eight top 10s in 11 starts) teammate Timothy Peters had the slight edge as he came within striking distance of grabbing his first career championship.

High Point: One word — Talladega. From the moment Kligerman joined Red Horse Racing, it was clear from their chemistry he would head to Victory Lane before the season was up. But despite their performance leading up to that race (five top 5s in seven events) they hadn’t managed to take the checkered flag first. At Talladega, Kligerman struggled mightily with a vibration and battery problems, never showing as a contender early on. Knowing they had little chance at Victory Lane with what they had, the No. 7 team gambled, taking four tires and changing a battery under caution. Restarting deep in the field, at 19th, it looked like Kligerman was just trying to avoid the big wrecks and earn the best finish possible… until he hooked up with Jason White. The duo tore through the field, giving Kligerman the top spot before they separated and dropped back. Enter Johnny Sauter, who pushed the driver of the No. 7 Toyota out front with just two laps remaining — a spot he’d keep at the right time. With a caution flying after the white flag, the field was frozen and Kligerman finally had that elusive first win, something he celebrated by planting the checkered flag firmly into the frontstretch grass.

Low Point: Following back-to-back top-10 results, including a solid seventh-place finish at Pocono, Brad Keselowski Racing released the 22-year-old without any warning. Sixth in points, Kligerman had long-term sponsorship and while he hadn’t won, there were more than enough runs near the front to make the firing a major surprise. Despite having been given no indication of his release, Kligerman remained confident he would find a new home and that’s just what he did with Red Horse Racing. Just days after being let go at BKR, Kligerman signed on to drive the No. 7 Toyota with RHR, filling a ride that had been vacant since the team parted ways with rookie John King earlier in the year.

Summary: It was an up and down season for Kligerman, one that started the way it had been the last few years — as one of Penske Racing’s top prospects. Driving for Brad Keselowski Racing, the youngster didn’t win in his first 11 starts of 2012 but did nothing to dissuade you from the thought he’d keep developing into a contender. In those first 11 races, Kligerman had seven top-10 finishes and landed a solid sixth in points. But a winless campaign wasn’t enough for Keselowski, who thought the team should be doing better and an opportunity to put a new “young gun” in the seat, Ryan Blaney was too much to pass up. So Penske pulled the trigger through Kes, throwing Kligerman out on the street and installing Blaney (who, to their credit won in the truck before the season was out).

Unexpectedly unemployed, you wondered if Kligerman would get another chance to prove himself so quickly. Luckily, he was able to hook up with Red Horse Racing in what became a career-saving opportunity. With two poles and a win the second half of the season, Kligerman was so strong he even surged into the fringes of championship contention. If not for a crash at Phoenix, and the resulting 27th-place disappointment Kligerman would have been right with Ty Dillon, Peters, and eventual champion James Buescher heading to Homestead.

2013 Outlook: Last month, Kyle Busch Motorsports announced that Kligerman would join their Nationwide Series effort. He’ll pilot a No. 77 Toyota full-time, with patchwork sponsorship in hopes of claiming the championship. Kligerman joins fellow Truck Series driver Joey Coulter, who will be driving for KBM in trucks as the pair make moves they hope will launch them towards Sprint Cup over the long-term.

2012 Grade: A-. It’s hard to give a bad grade to a driver that switched teams midseason and actually improved his performance. While there were some tough finishes in the last couple races that caused Kligerman to drop out of the championship battle, it was still a year to be proud of and one to build on for the 2013 season.

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