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March 22, 2023

Back on track: Parker Kligerman’s return to Xfinity Series comes full circle with momentum before COTA

Parker Kilgerman stands with one hand near his ear, preparing to get into his car.
James Gilbert
Getty Images

Saturday, Parker Kligerman returns to Circuit of The Americas, the race track where his NASCAR Xfinity Series career was revitalized.

Normally a reporter for NBC Sports, Kligerman got a call from Joey Gase and Patrick Emerling last March, presenting him with a chance to race at COTA behind the wheel of the No. 35 Toyota Supra for Emerling-Gase Motorsports. It was a chance he wouldn’t pass up.

“Very humbled they thought of me for this,” Kligerman tweeted. “I hope we can get them a great result.”

Little did he know his opportunity was just the beginning of a fresh start to his racing career. After years of part-time positions, his persistence was paying off.

Before that breakthrough call, it had been five years since Kligerman had another chance to compete at the Xfinity Series level after starting 53 races — including his lone full-time season in 2013 — between 2009 and 2017. The longtime driver bounced around organizations, making starts in the Cup Series, Craftsman Truck Series and the ARCA Menards Series just searching for track time.

Now, almost 12 months later to the day, he is already competing for wins and a championship as a full-time Xfinity Series competitor.

Five races into the 2023 season, Kligerman and Big Machine Racing are rapidly improving — and should be even more encouraged after their fourth-place effort in Saturday’s last-lap shootout at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

ATLANTA: Race results | Watch the intense finish

“Just so cool how fast our car was,” Kligerman said after the race. “Put four tires on there when we had to get fuel. Great call by (crew chief) Patrick Donahue and my engineer Cody McKenzie to do that because our car was so fast it drove through the field. We got to go to the bottom and no one would go with us and then we came to that last restart, I obviously lined up behind the 21, I thought that gave us the best shot of putting ourselves exactly in the position in which we were.”

Kligerman raced at the front of the field for the first time since the season-opening contest at Daytona International Speedway, battling toe-to-toe with superspeedway ace, Austin Hill.

“On the final lap, I felt like (Hill) was controlling the pack, but I had the lanes behind me to control, as well,” Kligerman explained. “So, if I picked the right one, I could get the shot.”

Kligerman did get the shot. But the push from behind by Daniel Hemric sent his No. 48 spinning down the frontstretch and backward across the finish line.

It was a dramatic ending to remember.

Miraculously, Kligerman still finished fourth and was unhurt in the collision — in fact, he was ecstatic.

“I’m so pumped,” Kilgerman said. “Because that is the first Xfinity Series superspeedway race where I felt like my natural skill was working. That’s what I’ve done my whole career.”

For Kligerman, it is a rejuvenated career that will come full circle when he straps into his seat for Saturday’s race at COTA (5 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) after a significant journey to get to this point.

He is also slated to start the Truck Series race earlier that day (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), his first series action at a road course since dominating last year’s event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with Henderson Motorsports — an emotional and validating victory.

However, Kligerman is still searching for his first win in the Xfinity Series, one that he is inching closer and closer to every week. And while the 32-year-old’s inspirational story in NASCAR is still being written, the pages are starting to come together a lot differently than they were just one year ago.

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