Parker Kligerman is Nascar’s definition of someone who never gives up.
The Connecticut native’s journey is well documented, going from a top prospect to journeyman racer to a Nascar on NBC analyst. He’s literally done in the sport, except competing for a Nascar championship.
That will change this weekend as Kligerman is one of 12 Xfinity Series drivers who are in the playoffs. His No. 48 Big Machine Racing team is in just its third season, and it’s Kligerman’s first full-time ride since 2013 with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Yes, a full decade has passed since he was considered to be a young gun who could be the next Cup Series star.
Now, with an opportunity of a lifetime thanks to Big Machine owner Scott Borchetta, who is the Big Machine Records owner who’s worked with the likes of Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw. Borchetta saw what Kligerman did the Craftsman Truck Series with a part-time entry at Henderson Motorsports and jumped on the opportunity to work with Kligerman, particularly after winning at Mid-Ohio last season.
“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Borchetta said in 2021, when he formed the team. “I’ve woken up a couple of times and said, ‘Wow. We own a Nascar Xfinity Series team.’ I can’t wait to go, enjoy it and take it all in with my family and friends. It truly is a dream come true.”
Kligerman qualified for the playoffs thanks to a series of strong performances, out-dueling Stewart-Haas Racing driver Riley Herbst in the final few weeks of the regular season. Since Sonoma in June, Kligerman is riding on a streak of five top fives and 10 top 10s through the last 13 races. Three of those top fives were in the final month of the regular season.
He entered the regular season finale at Darlington a mere point behind Herbst for the 12th and final spot in the playoffs. But Herbst actually got into Kligerman during the race, and he experienced a series of issues as Kligerman soared to a fourth-place finish.
“I think it more validates the last 12 [weeks],” Kligerman said after Darlington. “I’ve been telling everyone that we’ve been really good. We’ve executed at a high level. And we just didn’t exactly have everything to show for it. But I could see it. I could see it happening. I could feel it. I could see it as we crept up on the bubble.
And in late August, Kligerman inked a contract extension with Borchetta’s team.
“Although we haven’t yet achieved our ultimate goal of winning races together, we’ve shared some unforgettable moments and continue to grow stronger each week,” Kligerman said in a press release. “It’s an incredible feeling knowing we still have a chance to fight for a championship this year, and we’ll be doing just that in 2024.”
Kligerman firmly believes his No. 48 team has a chance to advance to the Championship 4 at Phoenix in November. First up is getting to the Round of 8.
“If we bring this [speed] going forward, we’re going to be racing for a championship,” Kligerman said after the regular season finale.
There will be plenty of challenges from Kligerman’s competitors throughout the playoffs. John Hunter Nemechek, Austin Hill, Justin Allgaier and Cole Custer have dominated the season, combining to win a total of 14 races.
But Kligerman has the seventh best average finish of full-time drivers, and that’s a number he’s improved upon in the second half of the season.
The best part for Kligerman is he has nothing to lose. He’s made it this far and he’s ready to fight for wins the rest of this season and throughout 2024.