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Kligerman looks to build on last year’s success

Jeff Birchfield • Feb 1, 2018 at 12:48 AM

ABINGDON — Restrictor-plate races are often looked at as wild-card events in the NASCAR world, races where nearly every team in the field has a chance.

Still, Parker Kligerman doesn’t believe his win in the Camping World Truck Series at Talladega Superspeedway was in any way a fluke. The numbers back him up. Kligerman recorded five top-10 finishes in seven starts last season behind the wheel of the Henderson Motorsports No. 75 Toyota.

“The race that got away was Dover, and you wouldn’t describe that as a wild-card race at all,” Kligerman said Wednesday at the team’s media day. “We had one of the fastest, if not the fastest truck there. We got caught in a wreck after a bad pit stop and made some (crew) changes after that.

“We had the speed to win, but we had to have the other parts. Winning Talladega was simply a culmination of all the pieces coming together for us. We always say on TV that anyone can win on the super speedways, but when you look at the winners, they’re usually the consistent winners, the repeat winners.”

It’s the case with him. He is a two-time Talladega winner with his first victory coming in 2012. Kligerman added it takes a tremendous amount of confidence for a team to win a superspeedway race. He believes the Henderson team has that confidence and is a step ahead of most teams.

Kligerman, who also works as a television analyst for the NBC Sports Network, likes how the Henderson team is away from all the larger teams around NASCAR’s hub in Charlotte and is doing so well in the Tri-Cities area.

“It’s really cool we get the local support,” he said. “This is the second year we’ve done the media event, and we packed the place. You wouldn’t do that in Charlotte with the big teams. It’s cool to see how this local area supports this race team. We’re proving that you don’t have to be based in Charlotte to run a race-winning team at the national level. You can do it with the local people who believe in racing and want to be at the race shop.”

The Henderson Motorsports team has raced on the national level for nearly four decades.

It first had major success with Johnson City driver Brad Teague, who finished second to Tommy Ellis in the 1981 NASCAR Late Model Sportsman (the forerunner to today’s Xfinity Series) point standings. In 1987, Teague and the team hit another major milestone with a win at Martinsville, where the Johnson City driver held off future NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett for the win.

The Henderson team also won twice with driver Rick Wilson at Bristol and Dover, and in more recent years have won on a regional basis in the Hooters Pro Cup Series with driver Caleb Holman.

But a huge key to the success is the unusual pairing of the 27-year-old Connecticut driver with crew chief Chris Carrier, a Bluff City native. The two worked together in the Xfinity Series for famed car owner Roger Penske, but Kligerman believes the current situation with the Henderson team running selected Truck Series events better fits their style.

“I say all the time, there are three ways a driver-crew chief combination gets along,” said Kligerman, who has 33 top-10 finishes in 68 Truck Series starts. “It’s like a father figure, a mentor-type of relationship, a best friend-type, or like a girlfriend where you bicker all the time. When we first started, it was like mentor and pupil, but it’s jelled into being best friends. We talk all the time and will talk on the phone over an hour at a time about nothing.

“We’re great friends, and we also have great confidence in each other’s abilities. I never question what he’s doing to the truck, and he never questions what I’m doing in the truck. If we do have suggestions, neither take it personally. We know we’re looking at each other’s best interests. To be in a situation where we show and just try to win, that’s so cool.”

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