Dave Burnham, CT Motorsport Magazine, May 23, 2013
In this exclusive interview, Westport’s Parker Kligerman, driver of the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 77 Toyota Camry, talks about his 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series season, his hopes for the rest of the season, what it’s like to drive for Kyle Busch.
CTMM – What are your feelings on your first full Nationwide Series season so far?
PK – Our season has gone almost according to plan. I set a goal that after 15 races, I wanted to be top five in points – we’ve already been in the top five twice this year and we’re just six points out of fifth heading into this weekend. We were running top five at Las Vegas when we had a broken part and ended up finishing 30th. If we had those points back, we would be second or third in points right now. Overall I think we’ve had a good start, but we need to continue to improve and keep finding speed so that we can challenge for wins. In the second half of the season, that’s when you’ll see the true championship contenders show their hand and hopefully we’ll be one of the teams that will be in contention all the way to Homestead.
CTMM – Coming into this weekend’s NASCAR Nationwide Series History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, you’re sitting seventh in the points, 55 points behind leader Regan Smith. Is this the position you thought/hoped to be in after nine rounds of the series?
PK – No. You never hope to not be leading. Obviously I would like to have been leading the points and definitely not be 55 back. When you look at what Regan Smith and the No. 7 team have accomplished with an average finish of 5.8 over the first nine races, that’s unheard of in this series. The lowest average for a champion in the series has been 7.4. Normally you have two to four bad finishes in a season, which is anywhere from 30 to 40 points lost. I look at us really being about 15 to 20 points back from him. I don’t think we’re in a bad position whatsoever.
CTMM – Your racing game plan focuses on limiting mistakes and consistent finishes. This strategy has put you seventh in the series standings. Will it continue to be the game plan as you move into the middle of the season, or will you and crew chief Eric Phillips take it up a notch and go after podium finishes?
PK – Absolutely, that’s a really observant thing to see that our game plan has been to be consistent. I wouldn’t say conservative, I don’t like that. We always show up with the intent to go out and try to win. I think knowing we need to be consistent in our finishes, if we can’t go out and win, has been important to our game plan. Also making sure that as a small race team we can put ourselves in the right position in the second half of the season to have the amount of cars we need, by being able to build new cars because we haven’t been wrecking cars. Those sorts of things add up, especially when you enter the 15 to 20-race stretch that ends the season. I think as we look to the second half we’re definitely going to have new cars and have a lot more available cars that we’ve tweaked and made better. That’s when you feel that as a race team you should go out there and start to perform at the front and hopefully challenge for victories
CTMM – How much of a learning experience is it driving for Kyle Busch and what are you learning from him?
PK – Kyle’s not going to come to you and suggest things, but in a lot of ways he’s one of the few drivers I’ve ever worked with that if I go to him, he’s very much an open notebook. He’ll tell you everything he knows and make sure you understand it because he’s a very articulate thinker about racing. He breaks down the way he drives and the way he approaches each kind of racetrack very well, but at the same time he has a mentality of I’m going to tell you everything you need to know, but I’m still going to go out and beat you with it. I think that’s the best relationship you can have as teammates in a sport or as a driver/owner and it’s something I’m very thankful for. I’m really thankful for his support and, hopefully, I’ve been able to put it to good use this year so far and into the future.
CTMM – Depending on how the rest of the season progresses, what are your plans for 2014? Will you stay in the Nationwide Series with Kyle?
PK – Right now I’m focused on the present. This race team has consistently shown that we’re better than last year and that we’re a top-five contender and hopefully a championship contender come the end of the season. I think if we do all the right things the opportunity will be to stay here in 2014 and race for another Nationwide Series title. We need to focus on the now and in the present and the other things will take care of themselves as we get closer to the end of the season and the off season.
CTMM – Your next race will be at Charlotte. Is it one of your favorite tracks?
PK – Charlotte is one of my favorite tracks. It’s a unique 1.5-mile track and you don’t really see anything else like it on our circuit in terms of how fast it is and how different the corners are on each end. Those two things in terms of speed and difference in corners are unique. The track lends itself to a different kind of racing – you’ll see a lot of two and three-wide racing in the corners and then it gets back to single file on the straightaways. It is a difficult place – it’s nickname is ‘The Beast of the Southeast’ – and it’s one of those places that if you don’t treat it with respect you can get into trouble. With the high speeds and the tire that Goodyear brings – a stiffer tire that is a little bit tougher to control – it puts a premium on having a good-handling car and being at the front.
CTMM – What kind of tracks do you enjoy most – the big superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega, a bullring like Richmond or a 1- or 1.5-mile oval?
PK – I don’t like to say I like any track more than another. I like them all. Obviously I like any track I win at. I plan to like them all, but I think if we have a strength with this team it’s on the superspeedways where we’ve been very, very good. On the 1.5-mile tracks we need to be a little better because they have usually been one of my strengths in the NASCAR ranks. The 1.5-mile tracks make up most of our schedule, so since I came into NASCAR I’ve made a concerted effort to be good at those race tracks and to understand them and what it takes to be fast. I hope to be better at them soon. The short tracks, we really don’t run into them enough in the Nationwide Series; we don’t have a lot of them, but there’s no reason why we can’t run in the top 10 and top five each week.
CTMM – Later in the season you’ll be racing at Watkins Glen. Are you looking forward to the road courses and how much experience do you have on them?
PK – I’m excited for the road courses. We have three iconic American road courses [Road America, Watkins Glen and Mid Ohio] on our schedule and I’m excited to go to those as I have a road course background. I really enjoy road racing.
CTMM – Have you ever raced at Lime Rock Park?
PK – My first ever car race was at Lime Rock in the Skip Barber series. It was in a monsoon and they almost cancelled the race. I started fourth and was able to take the lead at the end of the first lap and proceeded to lap the field all the way up to third place. My second car race was the next day. It was a half-wet, half-dry race and I won that also. That’s the only time I ever raced at Lime Rock, but it was my first experience in a race car.