Monday, Aug 08

Mother nature doesn't cooperate with Bandit Chipper race team's gamble

With rain approaching late in the Alliance Truck Parts 250 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, crew chief Eric Phillips rolled the dice and kept Parker Kligerman on the track late in the race, hoping the rain would reach the 2-mile oval before the completion of the scheduled distance. The rain didn't start until after the race and Kligerman, who had led 13 consecutive circuits, was forced to surrender a 1.5-second lead with just over 10 laps remaining to come down pit road for fuel. After a quick splash-and-go stop, the Bandit Chippers Camry returned to the track in the 14th position, the last car on the lead lap. Bad luck struck a second time with just two laps remaining, when the splash of fuel wasn't enough to make it to the end of the 125-lap event and Kligerman was forced to return to his pit stall for more fuel. With no time left to recover, the team ended a once promising run with an undeserving 25th-place finish.


"We played it perfectly for that situation and I'm not down on Eric (Phillips, crew chief) or anyone about that," said a dejected Kligerman post-race. "I was fully for it, but it sucks when you run top-five all day. This Bandit Chippers Camry right in front of a Bandit Chippers home crowd and a car that could win on speed alone and -- we drove away from the field there -- and it just didn't go our way. Disappointing day result-wise, but a lot of positives in terms of the speed we had in our Camry and we'll get them next time. Have to thank Toyota, Bell Helmets, Bolle, ButlerBuilt, Joe Gibbs Racing Engines and Nationwide Insurance - everyone that makes it possible for us to come out here and put on a show for the fans."


Kligerman started the race from the 16th position and after narrowly escaping a first-lap melee, emerged from the smokein what he called "Days of Thunder" fashion, scored in the ninth position. After another quick caution and the ensuing restart, the Bandit Chippers Camry quickly made its way into the top five, where it ran from laps 12 to 20. As the green-flag run continued, the No. 77 became loose on entry and the team fell back one spot to the sixth position.


On lap 46, the Connecticut native made his first appearance on pit road under green, getting four fresh tires and a full tank of fuel. When stops cycled through on lap 55, Kligerman was scored in the eighth position, where he remained until the third caution of the race slowed the field on lap 63. Phillips called for a right-side only stop and returned his young driver to the track scored in the 10th position for the lap-68 restart.


When another caution occurred on lap 81, a rain storm appeared to be quickly approaching through "The Irish Hills" and Phillips elected to remain on the track in an effort to improve the team's finish should the impending weather end the race prematurely. Knowing that his Camry didn't have enough fuel to make it to the end, the veteran signal caller kept one eye on the radar and one eye on the track after the field went back green.


Kligerman took the lap-84 restart from the fourth position and pushed race leader Joey Logano, who elected the outside lane, past second-place runner and also cleared Bayne himself and settled into the runner-up spot. The two drivers had distanced themselves from third-place Trevor Bayne when a debris caution brought out what turned into the fifth and final caution of the race.


When Logano came down pit road, Phillips' radar showed the weather right on top of the area where the track is located and once again elected to keep his Toyota on the track. When the race resumed on lap 102, Kligerman's owner, Kyle Busch, pushed his young driver past the inside lane, which allowed the No. 77 team to keep the lead. Within just a few laps, the yellow-and-black machine had distanced itself from the pack, opening a 1.5-second lead on eventual-race winner Regan Smith.


With only minuscule drops making their way onto the track, the race remained green and the Bandit Chippers Camry surrendered the lead when Kligerman was summoned to pit road for fuel on lap 112. Knowing they only needed a minimal amount of fuel and trying to stay on the lead lap, Phillips ordered his fuel handler to keep the can in for five seconds before letting his driver return to the track.


Unfortunately, the race remained caution and rain free for the final 23 laps. With just two laps remaining in the 125-lap event, Kilgerman radioed that he was out of fuel shortly after passing the start-finish line. He coasted around the track and down pit road, where the over-the-wall crew put fuel into and re-fired his Camry. With the race in its final lap, he returned to the track and crossed the finish line with an undeserving 25th-place finish.


Smith, the series point's leader, picked up his third career Nationwide Series win and second this season. Rookie Kyle Larson crossed the stripe 2.023 seconds behind Smith in the runner-up spot. Sprint Cup Series regulars Paul Menard and Busch finished third and fourth, respectively. Trevor Bayne rounded out the top-five finishers.


There were five caution periods totaling 23 laps. Five drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead five times. Seven drivers failed to finish the thirteenth event on the 2013 Nationwide Series schedule.


Kligerman, who fell two spots to eighth in the championship standings, and his No. 77 team head to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. for the Johnsonville Sausage 200 June 22. Live television coverage of Saturday's 50-lap event begins with NASCAR Countdown at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN.




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