By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
Parker Kligerman will embark on his 14th year involved in one of NASCAR’s divisions on Friday night at the Daytona International Speedway.
Kligerman, 31, will look to make his 99th start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Henderson Motorsports and confirmed to Kickin’ the Tires his 2022 plans on Wednesday.
“We are going to do our normal schedule,” said Kligerman. “We are going to do our normal eight-to-ten races depending on how they go. As usual, it’s subject to change if we get wrecked or something like that. Our schedule is kind of built by us, for us, and it’s when we want to show up.
“The Hendersons are awesome in that way and they give us the tools to go out and win and we only want to show up when we think we can win. So we go to places like the superspeedways, the road courses, some of the short tracks, the dirt track, and maybe mix in a mile-and-a-half or two. We have a goal schedule but as always it’s subject to change. It is a fun way to race because if we don’t feel ready to race, we aren’t obligated to race.”
Kligerman made his debut with Henderson at Atlanta in 2017 and has since remained with the organization for 37 total starts. Working on the broadcasting side, Kligerman found an organization that welcomes him without obligation to run more than he and the organization want to. Henderson has remained loyal to Kligerman as has Kligerman remained loyal to the organization. Sam Mayer made a sole start with the organization last season but otherwise, it’s been, Kligerman behind the wheel.
“It really goes both ways,” Kligerman said about his relationship with the Henderson family. “They have been really loyal to me as well so in this business and industry that is about as rare as it comes. I think when this opportunity came along in 2017 it was largely driven by Chris Carrier, who is the crew chief, team manager, he is everything. He is a one-man band and we only really have one full-time employee.
“We have a group who’ll run in during the weekends and maybe here and there but Chris has been the driving force of this team. He and I had such a great history back in ARCA and early days in the NASCAR ranks. We wanted to get back together and try to go win some races and we did that in 2017. In that year I got to know the family and just how important this team is to Abington, Virginia, and Food Country, the support they put towards the team, and the racing we do.
“It just seemed like a fun family atmosphere and from that point forward I have always wanted to stay loyal to them. With my situation. I’m working TV also in the industry, you know, a lot of my days spent in racing is work, it’s a job, but what I can go to the racetrack on a weekend and race the No. 75 and it’s literally just going, find a way to win, and to me it’s vacation. It’s fun.”
Henderson Motorsports is nearing 75 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The organization has never ran a full-time schedule but has been competitive. Bringing up Beard Motorsports, Kligerman talked about how the organization does its thing, and do it so well.
“I think it’s by design, Right?” said Kligerman. ‘If you look at the Beard Motorsports guys they do the Superspeedways but that is their focus. If they focus on that one thing they can be successful and I think that’s what we aim to do at Henderson Motorsports. We focus on the core things that allow us to go out and perform and then as I said earlier, we don’t show up unless we believe we can win. We have nothing telling us that we have to go race, no points, no obligations.
“With how qualifying worked in 2020 we probably ran more races in succession than we normally do but we kinda had to in order to be in races later in the year. In a perfect world, which you’ll see this year with qualifying back we are aiming to run about a race a month. It gives us the ability to make sure that our trucks can be prepared as they can and gives us time to tweak things and make adjustments. Chris is very good at planning all of that and we improve each time.
“The only drawback is that guys that race every week are refining their setups more often but we still are able to do that over the course of 12-10 months or whatever it is and that sometimes can be a detriment. We always lean on quality over quantity and with the trucks not changing much over the last 10 years it helps. The way we race is for sure interesting because a lot of times you’ll see full-time organizations scratching their heads because we aren’t here every week but still super competitive and that makes it fun.”
As an organization that doesn’t run for points, Henderson doesn’t have the typical goals that other teams in the Truck Series have. There are no driver points on the line, no playoffs in their current plans, but the main goal that they have in 2022 is to return to victory lane for the first time since 2017. The goal within the goal? Win on a track that isn’t a superspeedway. Kligerman finished fourth at Henderson’s home track, Bristol Motor Speedway, in 2018 and 2020. He earned a fifth-place finish at Darlington last season and also at Watkins Glen, but he put emphasis on one sentence, “I’ve been so damn close”.
“You know, we got back to victory lane in 2017,” said Kligerman. “Charlie Henderson, the patriarch of the family and leader of our race team has been watching that race replay from Talladega in 2017 for years and I’ve been saying for a while that we need to get him another win to watch. I so desperately want to get back in victory lane, not for myself as much as for Chris Carrier, the Henderson family, and all of the employees and people at Food Country.
“I think the main goal we have is to return to victory lane again because I’d appreciate it even more than I did in 2017. It would be especially cool to do it somewhere that isn’t a superspeedway. I have now gotten two of those and I’d love to win at a road course or short track. It’s shocking to me that it hasn’t happened in all these years because of my record in ARCA.
“I was winning on every style of track including dirt and I’ve been so damn close at road courses. We just haven’t been able to put another one together. I feel this year is the year we finally go out there and hopefully rack up a couple of victories including at places that are unique”.
Talking about how close he was in 2021, Kligerman also spoke about some of the challenges he faced with the schedule being different due to COVID-19 and how it impacted his broadcasting/racing during the two majorly impacted races.
“Last year with the way the schedule got changed around with the COVID-19 policies where the Trucks would race on Sunday mornings or Sunday midday and the Cup races would be later that evening, those would be some long days,” Kligerman said about racing and broadcasting in the same time frame.
“I did Watkins Glen last year, went out and finished then jumped out and did the Xfinity broadcast. The hardest one had to be Darlington though. We ran midday in early September and then I had to turn around and do the Southern 500 broadcast, which is the longest race in NASCAR. That took some energy drinks to make it through and that was one of the hottest races, I actually had a cool suit in that race because I just knew of the long day ahead of me.”
Along with running in the Truck Series and broadcasting with NBC, Kligerman made his first NASCAR Cup Series start since 2019 at Kansas last season thanks to Fast. Kligerman raced with Gaunt Brothers Racing to a 20th place finish, his best since Talladega in 2019. The deal was thrown together and Kligerman didn’t expect it but confirmed that he has zero Cup series starts planned for the 2022 season.
“I don’t have any Cup Series races planned right now,” said Kligerman. “The one last year at Kansas was driven by Fast and the sponsorship coming together. Marty and Toyota were gracious enough to give me an opportunity as well and it was a cool one. I didn’t expect to get back into a cup car after my last start in the No. 96 in 2019, I believe it was.
“We made a great effort and I really enjoyed it. It was probably one of my best Cup races and I feel we had a serious shot at finishing inside the top-15 and top-10 if maybe I had run a race more recently. With all of that said, it was a really good run and I enjoyed it a lot. It was cool and who knows if there will ever be another one, but, I really enjoyed that weekend.”
Entering his 14th season in NASCAR, Kligerman had to sit and think about his answer to the final question.
“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” and his answer was very solid.
“Ah man, I’m weird,” said Kligerman. “I don’t really think too far ahead and so if you would’ve asked me eight years ago, I wouldn’t have said I was here so I don’t know. I don’t know what would have been different but I don’t think I’d be exactly right.
“I’ve learned that in 31 years of my life, you can’t really predict where you’ll be. I think the best thing you can do is try and follow things that excite you. Go after your dreams and see, as my dad likes to say shoot for the stars and you might end up on the moon. Motorsports is always going to be a part of my life and I know in some capacity I’ll always have something to do with motorsports. It runs through my blood, I live, sleep, and breathe racing. I’m a first-generation in motorsports for my family but I hope that the Kligerman name will continue in the sport because I absolutely love it.
“I do have a lot of interests outside the industry so we’ll see. I’m in a unique position at just being 31 and I’ve made it to the top of motorsports and the broadcasting side. I always wanted to host a TV show and I got that chance with NBC Proving Grounds. I’ve done a lot and accomplished a lot in a very short amount of years. And, uh, I’m always looking for that next challenge. So we’ll see.”