It doesn’t take a lot of sleuthing to realize that Parker Kligerman and Big Machine Racing have been shattering expectations since they first partnered in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Talladega in October 2022.
Kicking things off with a strong sixth-place result, team owner Scott Borchetta made the decision to call on Kligerman to be the team’s full-time pilot in 2023 – a choice that has ultimately rewarded him with a team now capable of winning races.
They haven’t quite accomplished that, yet. At least not with Parker Kligerman. But, they’ve been painstakingly close on multiple occasions, the latest of which was Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Kligerman had to settle for his second runner-up result of the year on Saturday, after John Hunter Nemechek made quick work of the Big Machine Spiked Coolers-sponsored entry, after a botched attempt to get the lead from Justin Allgaier.
The 33-year-old driver took advantage of a slow restart by the outside lane to move from fifth to third on a late-race restart, putting himself the furthest forward of the drivers who had fresh tires, with the leaders – Austin Hill and Justin Allgaier – in sight.
From that point, it only took a couple of laps for Kligerman to get to the rear bumper of Allgaier, the race’s dominator, leaving the driver of the No. 48 to make his move for the lead at the end of the back straightaway.
Lunging to the inside of Allgaier in turn three, the No. 48 had a massive bobble before reaching the apex of the corner, which sent both himself and Allgaier up the track, and cost both drivers a great deal of momentum.
Nemechek, who had scooted into third on his new tires, would take advantage, driving to the inside of Kligerman on the frontstretch and taking over the lead, and eventually, the victory at Texas.
Justin Allgaier, who led a race-high 133 laps, wasn’t overly pleased with Kligerman’s late-race move for the victory, saying that the Greenwich, Connecticut native drove his car way deeper into that corner than was reasonable, knowing it would get free.
Kligerman, quite frankly, didn’t agree with Allgaier’s assessment of the situation, telling members of the media after the race: “I had a tire advantage, so I basically had brand-new tires, and on new tires, you can basically do it like a qualifying lap and carry a bunch of throttle.”
“I don’t think I went that deep, I just wanted to get enough to hear that he was at the right-rear quarter, and then just light it up, take the lead, and drive away,” Kligerman continued. “I think if we do that, the No. 20 never gets us, we win this race.”
There is a silver lining to Kligerman’s strong second-place finish, in that the post-season picture is looking better, in terms of the No. 48 Chevrolet having the chance to advance to the ‘Round of 8’, sitting just one point behind Daniel Hemric.
But, the agony of being so close to your first career victory, in any series, is difficult to cope with when being so close, especially for a journeyman driver such as Kligerman, who had his last full-time chance in the series a decade ago.
“Ahh, I wanted it,” Kligerman said. “I want it bad. I can see it, feel it. Just, this one stings.”
Regardless of whether Kligerman and Big Machine Racing advance into the Playoffs or not, the team’s season is certainly nothing to scoff at, with a stunning stat line that includes eight top-five and 15 top-10 finishes.
To make the pie even sweeter, this is just what the driver-team pairing has done in its first year. Kligerman is set to return to Big Machine Racing in 2024, to chase another post-season berth with the No. 48 team.
…and if they can maintain this level of performance, there’s no telling where the ceiling is.