Parker Kligerman overcame an early miscue under caution in the early stages of the Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 300 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway to post his third ninth-place finish in as many Nationwide Series starts at "The World's Fastest Half Mile." After restarting 25th on lap 65, a determined Kligerman methodically maneuvered his No. 77 Bandit Chippers Camry back through the field to bring home his second top-10 finish in four races this season.
"Our Bandit Chippers Camry was really fast this weekend -- we had a couple of mishaps that cost us some track position, but we were able to fight back and bring home another top-10 finish," said Kligerman, who picked up his seventh career Nationwide Series top-10 finish across 22 starts. "We had to come from the back of the field early in the race -- we must have passed more cars than anybody out there. I have to thank Bandit Chippers, Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing Engines, Bollé, Butler Seats, Nationwide Insurance and all the fans out there that support us. We just need to keep posting top-10 finishes and we'll start working our way back up the point standings. If we can do that, hopefully we'll be fighting for a championship come Homestead."
After finishing Friday's practice session eighth quick, Kligerman and crew had high hopes of obtaining a top-10 starting spot in qualifying Saturday morning. A loose-handling Bandit Chippers Camry over the two-lap qualifying session relegated the No. 77 squad to a 16th starting position for Saturday's 300-lap event.
Kligerman ran just outside the top 15 in the opening laps, communicating to crew chief Eric Phillips that his Toyota was "loose on entry, tight in the center and the temperature gauge is pegged." The Connecticut native was scored in the 16th position when a one-car spin slowed the field for the second time on lap 60.
Under caution, Kligerman was checking his gauges waiting for NASCAR officials to open pit road. Veteran spotter Earl Barban alerted his young driver that pit road was open as the field worked their way through Turns 3 and 4. With his mind on the gauges, Kligerman immediately came down pit road off Turn 4, when he was supposed to follow the rest of the field through the pits on the backstretch first and then proceed to his stall on the frontstretch.
The mishap placed the No. 77 at the tail end of the lead-lap cars entering pit road and by the time the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop - with an air pressure adjustment to tighten up the car - Kligerman returned to the track scored in the 25th position for the lap-65 restart.
Just 10 laps later, a determined Kligerman had worked his way back inside the top 20. In the middle stages of the race he communicated to Phillips that the adjustments over the first two stops were positive ones and that his Bandit Chippers Camry was "pretty damn good," as he continued to work his way toward the top 10.
With 100 laps remaining, the talented youngster was scored in the 12th position. His Toyota was fast around the bottom line and although his car was faster than many of the cars inside the top 10, each time he was able to pull even with another competitor it took several laps to complete the pass. After winning a 20-lap side-by-side battle with former Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, he worked his way into the top 10 for the first time on lap 235.
As the race continued under a long green-flag run, Kligerman set his sights on Chris Buescher in the ninth position. He was able to catch Buescher, but just before completing the pass, a one-car spin in Turn 2 brought out the final caution of the race on lap 267. Having already used all of their allotted sets of Goodyear tires, Phillips elected to keep his young driver on the track. Two of the teams inside the top 10 and the rest of the lead-lap cars behind the No. 77 had tires remaining and elected to pit.
When the race went back green for the final time on lap 273, the Bandit Chippers Camry was scored in the seventh position. The cars with fresher tires quickly worked their way around the KBM entry and Kligerman subsided to the 10th position in the closing laps. With the action happening fast and furious over the final lap, Kligerman was able to work his way into the ninth position on the backstretch and raced side-by-side with Justin Allgaier for eighth coming to the stripe, but ended the race with a "gritty" ninth-place performance. His 51 passes under green-flag conditions were the most of any driver during the 300-lap event.
KBM owner Kyle Busch picked up his second Nationwide Series victory in just four races this season in his Joe Gibbs Racing Monster Energy machine. The win was his series-leading 53rd career triumph, his fifth in the Nationwide Series at Bristol and his 107th career triumph across NASCAR's top three divisions. Rookie Kyle Larson finished 0.023 seconds behind Busch in the runner-up position. Brian Vickers, Sam Hornish Jr. and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were eight caution periods for 54 laps. Five drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead five times. Eleven drivers failed to finish the race.