Parker Kligerman has had a long, long, long journey to get to where he is now. The journeyman racer thought his chances at competing for a championship in any NASCAR National Series were over, and he had slipped into a television broadcast role to pair with a part-time racing career.
However, as Kligerman continued to impress each time he was in his part-time opportunities, whether it was for the Gaunt Brothers, Henderson Motorsports, or any other various team that called him into their seat over the years, his star began to rise. Then, he won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Mid-Ohio. He was officially back on the full-time radar.
This led Scott Borchetta, team owner of Big Machine Racing, to call a press conference last fall at Martinsville Speedway to announce he had found the new full-time driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet. Borchetta selected Kligerman.
Nearly a year later, Kligerman rewarded Borchetta for making that decision.
The Connecticut native drove an inspired race in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway, and after a fourth-place finish, the driver of the No. 48 Big Machine Racing Chevrolet Camaro has locked himself into the Playoffs.
Kligerman, who entered Kansas with a one-point deficit to Riley Herbst after a late-race incident with Sam Mayer cost him a slew of points at Darlington, can now sigh a breath of relief as he is a NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff contender.
“That’s a very satisfying feeling,” Kligerman explained. “I was definitely the biggest John Hunter [Nemechek] fan on that last run there, seeing [Brandon Jones] be so fast that last run. But I’m really proud of this whole Big Machine Racing team. They brought a really good Spiked Light Coolers Chevy, as we showed throughout this race.”
While Kligerman is in the Playoffs, he and his team have shown incredible consistency over the last 13 races. In fact, over that span, Kligerman has only finished worse than 11th two times.
Momentum has certainly been building for the No. 48 group, and to sail into the Playoffs on the high of a fourth-place run with their backs against the walls at Kansas has them believing a championship run could be possible.
“We executed at a high level, and that’s what I’ve seen us do for the last 12 weeks,” Kligerman stated. “I felt like if we could just get into the Playoffs, we bring this going forward, we’re going to race for a championship.”
Now, Kligerman will have that chance.
While Kligerman, 33, is in the Playoffs, his fortune unfortunately means misfortune for others.
Riley Herbst Fails to Advance After Hard-Luck Day at Kansas
Riley Herbst, who drives the No. 98 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, has a fast car in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300, but he just couldn’t catch a break all race long.
On a Lap 19 restart, Herbst did not get a good burst, as the inside lane got bottled up. This allowed Kligerman to get by him. But Herbst would keep that No. 48 car in his sights.
On a restart on Lap 65, Kligerman had a hiccup while shifting up through the gears, and he took a shot from behind from Creed. As Creed nudged around Kligerman, Herbst chose wrong and decided to cut his car to the inside. Kligerman was there, and the two made contact. The contact crumpled the right front fender of Herbst’s car, and he would instantly cut a tire.
“On that restart, I don’t really know what happened,” Herbst explained. “They all got stacked up. I don’t know if someone missed a gear, or spun the tires, but at that point, our day was kind of in a big hole.”
Herbst would lose two laps to the leaders, but he would somehow find his way back on the lead lap after a multi-car crash on Lap 97. It looked like Herbst was back in business, however, he would suffer another flat tire around Lap 137, and he would lose two more laps on pit road.
The caution would come out a few laps later, which would trap Herbst two laps down. He would finish 23rd.
Herbst says he feels upset by missing out on the Playoffs on Saturday simply because the car was good enough to advance in the Playoffs. They just never caught the breaks they needed.
“I honestly feel like we had one of the fastest cars out here today, and we were one of the fastest 12 cars all year. We just weren’t good enough today, but I feel like we were good enough, though, that’s what’s frustrating. We just didn’t execute,” Herbst said.
Now, Herbst and the No. 98 team can get back to focusing on winning races instead of worrying about points. That’s what has Herbst excited because he wants to find victory lane in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
“I didn’t really care about rounds of the Playoffs, or how far we went,” Herbst said of his season goals. “I wanted to go win races, and I wanted to get better as a race car driver. And I still feel we have 7-8 races left to go do that.”
Brandon Jones Nearly Steals the Show
While the focus of the week was on the battle between Kligerman and Herbst, Brandon Jones emerged as a true threat to knock both drivers out of the Playoffs.
The driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro was lingering near the front of the field in the early portion of the race, but he was swept up in two spins throughout the race, one on Lap 75, and another one on Lap 97.
However, Jones and his team did not give up. They kept on chugging, and the driver of the No. 9 car knifed through the field. In the closing laps, Jones had worked his way to second behind eventual race-winner John Hunter Nemechek, and for a few laps, it looked like he had the speed to challenge Nemechek for the win.
However, Nemechek was simply too strong, and Jones’ bid to steal the final Playoff berth came up 7.521 seconds short.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Field Set
The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs field is now officially set. Austin Hill took the regular season championship by five points over John Hunter Nemechek, who won Saturday’s race.
Joining Hill, Nemechek, and Kligerman in the Playoffs this season will be Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer, Josh Berry, Sam Mayer, Sheldon Creed, Daniel Hemric, Chandler Smith, Sammy Smith, and Jeb Burton.
The 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs Kick off with the Round of 12 next week at Bristol Motor Speedway. That race, the Food City 300, is set for Friday, September 15th at 7:30 PM ET. USA Network will carry the television broadcast of the event, while the Performance Racing Network (PRN) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will provide the radio broadcast.