Pocono Raceway always has held special meaning for Parker Kligerman.
A Connecticut native and resident, he considers the
2.5-mile triangular track in Long Pond his home track. It also is the first place he saw a NASCAR stock car in person in 2007.
“I was transitioning out of the open-wheel world and I had an opportunity to meet with an ARCA team,” Kligerman said. “I showed up there Saturday morning and I was coming through the tunnel and the first car I saw was the No. 31 car for Jeff Burton. I remember thinking, ‘Whoa, that’s cool. I want to do that.’ ”
Kligerman is doing that. Again.
For the first time since 2013, the 32-year-old driver is running a full NASCAR season, driving the No. 48 Chevrolet for Big Machine Racing in the Xfinity Series. He will compete in the Explore the Pocono Mountains 225 on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Pocono.
Also, he will be in the
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series CRC Brakleen 150 on Saturday at noon in the Henderson Motorsports No. 75 Chevrolet, a team he drives for on a limited basis.
Then Sunday, during the NASCAR Cup Series HighPoint.com 400, Kligerman will perform his role as pit road reporter for NBC Sports.
“Driving in Xfinity at this level is a seven-day-a-week job,” Kligerman said. “Add in Trucks, it’s a 7½ day-a-week job. Then TV, it’s an eight day-a-week job. So it’s a lot.
“But I’m lucky to have the chance to balance it all. I don’t feel overwhelmed in any way. It’s cool. I have to remind myself at times, when I’m down or we had a bad weekend, that all you wanted was a chance to be in this position. So bring it on.”
Overall in his NASCAR career, Kligerman has made 30 Cup Series starts, 74 Xfinity Series starts and 114 Truck Series starts. He has three wins in the Trucks Series, the last of which came at Mid-Ohio in July 2022.
While he was celebrating in Victory Lane, he got a call from Big Machine Racing team manager Keith Barnwell with an offer to drive the team’s car at Talladega in the fall. Kligerman finished sixth in that race and a few weeks later, he was named the full-time driver for 2023.
Through 18 races this season, Kligerman has three top-five and seven top-10 finishes with his best being a third place at Talladega. He is one spot below the cutoff spot for the Xfinity Series playoffs, 18 points back, with eight races left in the regular season.
“We’ve done great things as a young race team; this is only the third year of existence for this team and the second year of its partnership with RCR (Richard Childress Racing),” Kligerman said. “We’ve kind of done what’s expected of us. Barring two mechanical failures, we would be firmly in the playoffs right now. We’ve been contending for multiple wins. We just haven’t broken through.
“Overall, I think it’s a B+ and we’re only getting better. There’s a lot of internal stuff that we’ve worked on the last few months and we’re starting to see the payoff from it. As a team, we’re gelling and I think there’s a huge upside for us.”
Obviously, the easiest way for Kligerman to qualify for the Xfinity playoffs is to win one of the eight remaining races. He believes there are four or five tracks for a potential victory to happen, Pocono being one of them.
He ran two ARCA Series races there in 2009 and finished sixth and 21st. He also has three Trucks Series starts with finishes of 13th in 2011, seventh in 2012 and 15th in 2020.
“I’ve loved this race track for a long time,” Kligerman said. “Every time I’ve run there, I’ve run well because I really enjoy it.
“A driver can make a big difference there. Because it’s three different corners, because you have to compromise how you have to set up the car, the driver has a huge influence on performance on a race track like this. So if I’m half the driver I think I am, I can make a difference there in our results and be a big part of that equation. Every time I’ve run there, I’ve been able to find a little something. I feel like it’s a place that you go with a positive mental attitude and as a driver make a difference in the three corners. Plus, you put a lap together there, it’s a thrill. You’re like, man, that was awesome! How’d I do that?”
In 2014, Kligerman began working as an analyst and pit reporter for NBC Sports. Ironically, that day in 2007 when he first came to Pocono and saw Burton’s car, he now works on telecasts together with Burton.
His job in television, he feels, has helped him become a better driver.
“When you’re coming through the ranks as a young driver, you are focused on one thing and one thing only — your performance, your team, your perception. It’s all about you,” Kligerman said. “You go to the broadcast side and suddenly you’ve got to focus across the entire sport. The bigger picture, the 30,000-foot view. You have to know the stories and the ins and outs of every single competitor. You have to have the knowledge and the research done. When you do that, it gives you an entirely different perspective of the sport. So in a lot of ways, it’s beneficial to me as a driver because it made me sort of calm down, see the bigger picture, understand what is and isn’t important. I think it’s been the secret sauce to my resurgence and ability to get this full-time ride with Big Machine Racing.”