ASHLEY ASKS…..Parker Kligerman
Running a partial schedule for Henderson Motorsports, Parker Kligerman has enjoyed success this season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with two top-10’s in four starts.
The 26-year-old took some time out of his schedule to talk to Popular Speed’s Ashley McCubbin about his year to date, as well as his work with NBC Sports.
POPULAR SPEED: How would you characterize the races you’ve ran so far?
PARKER KLIGERMAN: Well, we’re a part-time team that has run four or five races with about five full-time employees, including Chris Carrier and my teammate Caleb Holman. We’ve had a chance to win some races, which is all that matters. That’s why we came together. Charlie Henderson has given us the tools to go out there and run up front, and we’ve taken the bull by the horns, so to speak. I thought we could’ve won Dover; we led some laps.
Looking forward to Bristol, which is a home race, and then especially the road course at Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park).
PS: Racing for a small team, what is it like competing against the bigger teams in the sport?
PK: I mean, it’s an adjustment but I’ve been a part of a massive team, too. I think it gives you perspective when you do that because when you’re at a bigger team, and you have all the resources, you start to focus on tiny little things and sometimes take away performance because you worry about things that don’t matter. But with a smaller team, you focus on the big things. So you have a good truck, good body and a good engine, and you focus on a consistent set-up, and from there, it’s about executing on race day.
So it’s a different thought process with a smaller team, but sometimes I think, with what we’re seeing right now at Henderson Motorsports, is we can be successful when we keep it simple.
PS: You mentioned Bristol and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Beyond those two events, what does your schedule look like?
PK: I think Caleb will run Martinsville, and then I will run Talladega and (Homestead-) Miami to end it. So not too many races left for us, but our deal is that we really focus on if we show up, we want to win. So we spread these races out far enough so we can prepare a truck capable of winning the race. For us, that’s what matters to us.
We’re not there to finish fifth and 10th – we’re there to win races. That’s what Charlie Henderson, our owner, wants to do, and that’s what Food Country USA wants, and what Chris Carrier wants, and that’s what I want to do. It’s not a huge schedule, but it’s something we can go out and contend with.
PS: So out of the races coming up, which are you most excited for?
PK: Well, for the team, Bristol as it’s their home race. So that’s a big one; that’s our super bowl. For myself, personally, I love road course racing. I won an ARCA race last year at New Jersey dominating, and some of my best XFINITY finishes are on road courses. I grew up road course racing, so I’m very much looking forward to that. Then I’ve won at Talladega before. So if I had a perfect schedule, it would be the races coming up.
PS: Is it difficult to transition from your TV persona to a race driver?
PK: It’s a totally different perspective within the sport. It’s allowed me to have a higher-up view. When you have to analyze the sport and different drivers, it forces you to look at it differently than a competitor. And I think that helps as a competitor in the truck series, but also having both can help each other. Being able to get in the truck every once in awhile helps the broadcast stuff, and the broadcast stuff helps how I view racing.
On top of that, I just love the opportunity that it gives me in being a younger person on TV to give the next generation’s perspective. You know, we’re into the next generation of the sport. A lot of drivers coming into the Cup Series, I’ve raced against – guys like Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and Ryan Blaney. It’s cool to kind of see that, and also be the one to not just analyze and asset their performances, but also offer something from their point of view.
PS: You’ve done a lot of neat stories in what you’ve written for NBC. What’s your favorite?
PK: My favorite would have to be my Indy 500. So I went to the Indy 500 and did a piece of my experience at the race. I decided it was the perfect racing event. So the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the most iconic race tracks in the world. The Indy 500 is a single-day largest sporting event in the world, and it’s an amazing experience to go there. I felt like that piece really capitulated a lot of what happened there and the experience. I had a lot of veterans that had been to the Indy 500 for 30 straight years, and told me that I couldn’t had written it any better. So I loved that one. That was a lot of fun.
But you know, some of the ones that are more of a take on current events are fun to write, too.
PS: So with the perspective that you’ve gained, if you could change one thing about NASCAR, what would you change?
PK: I probably contradicted myself a couple times three or four times this year alone. But I think when I look at the sport as a whole, the one thing that I would love that is impossible – I wrote about it before the All-Star race and it probably won’t happen and it’s infeasible with the way things are going with the ways of cars – but I wish 30 or 40 years ago, we would’ve kept the cars closer to what we see on the road and they would’ve stayed more stock.
I think the sport was built on the premises that stock cars are racing cars that are on the road, and 30 years ago, we started stepping away from that towards prototype cars. So I would’ve kept it more closer to what was on the road.
PS: What advice would you give to other drivers out there?
PK: I would say the biggest thing I learned, and I was in this position at one time, but a lot of young drivers feel like they’re not getting the recognition that they deserve. The best thing I can say is you need to a big fish in a small pond. You need to be winning, you need to be running up front because at the end of the day no matter how much you want to gripe about how this sport takes such a financial backing to get to the top, the thing that matters is performance.
So for drivers coming up the ranks, do not take the ride that gives you 20 races in a 20th-place car. Go to a series that allows you to be in the first place car and dominate, and sell that, and stay there till you get the opportunity to run up front in the next spot. In this day and age, you have to be a winner. You have to be selling to people on the fact that you’re dominating, winning, and the rest will take care of itself.
PS: If, in a perfect world, you could to choose a series to race in and have three teammates of your choice, what would that look like?
PK: Probably the greatest series in the world is one that nobody knows about is the V8 Supercars in Australia. And if I can have any teammate, I would pick Jimmie Johnson because he’s an absolute professional and one of the best in the world. I would pick my buddy Ryan Truex, and I guess I’m a four-car team so I’m driving one of them. And then someone like Ryan Blaney for the final spot.
You can catch Parker this weekend as NBC Sports Group presents XFINITY Series racing from Iowa Speedway, Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
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