Parker Kligerman Could Be an Xfinity Series Surprise Contender Thanks to Recent Developments
Parker Kligerman will return to the Xfinity Series as a full-time driver for the first time in a decade when he straps into the No. 48 Big Machine Racing Chevrolet. He’ll begin the 2023 season in February at Daytona International Speedway and is suddenly in a situation that could make him an instant factor in the series.
Parker Kligerman has had a long and winding NASCAR career
Kligerman, now 32, has three full-time NASCAR seasons on his resume. He piloted the No. 29 for Brad Keselowski Racing in the Camping World Truck Series from 2011-12. He made it only through the first half of the 2012 season in that truck and moved to the No. 7 for Red Horse Racing for the rest of the year.
The move worked for Kligerman, as he won his first pole award in his fourth start for RHR at Iowa Speedway and won his first career NASCAR race at Talladega Superspeedway three weeks later.
Kligerman moved up to the Xfinity Series in 2013 as the driver of the No. 77 car for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He managed three top-fives and 13 top-10s but did not win a race and finished ninth in the points standings. KBM no longer fielded an entry in the Xfinity Series after the 2013 campaign, and Kligerman has floated as a part-time driver ever since.
He ran the first eight Cup Series races of the 2014 season for Swan Racing before that operation shut down in what had been proposed as a full-time ride. Kligerman then took a job with NBC Sports and has been on the television network’s broadcast team in some capacity ever since.
Kligerman still raced part-time when possible, mainly in the Truck Series. He made at least seven Truck Series starts from 2016-2018, including a win once again at Talladega in 2017 in the No. 75 truck for Henderson Motorsports.
His 2019 campaign was his busiest on-track, as he drove 14 Cup Series races in the No. 96 car for Gaunt Brothers Racing, but a pair of 15th-place finishes were his only results better than 22nd for the small, single-car team.
Three more years as a part-timer passed before his next trip to Victory Lane. He took the No. 75 truck to the front of the field in the July race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and led 56 of 67 laps to capture his third career victory, which might prove to be his most fruitful win.
The Mid-Ohio win may have changed the course of his career
Kligerman received a call from Big Machine Racing owner Scott Borchetta shortly after the Mid-Ohio victory and signed up to drive the company’s No. 48 car in the October Xfinity Series race at Talladega.
Kligerman finished sixth in that race and joined a list of nine other drivers who started at least one race in the No. 48 car in 2022, including five full-time Cup Series drivers.
Big Machine Racing began operating only one year beforehand. Jade Buford (32 races) and Danny Bohn (one) completed the organization’s debut season with a long top-10 finish when Buford ran ninth at Michigan International Speedway.
Buford finished eighth at the Circuit of the Americas in the sixth race of the 2022 season, but Tyler Reddick gave the team some legitimacy and a peek at its potential when he started second and won the May race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Big Machine compiled two additional top-fives and seven more top-10s throughout the season, and the single-car operation is now poised to make a run at the playoffs in just its third season with Kligerman on board for the entire schedule.
For context, the NASCAR Playoffs system did not even exist in the Xfinity Series the last time Kligerman was a full-time driver in 2013.
Big Machine Racing appears capable of consistently putting Kligerman in a race-winning car
The No. 48 team finished 16th in the owners’ standings last season with its wide variety of drivers, and several playoff spots will be up for grabs next season, with several top contenders from the 2022 season moving to the Cup Series.
Reigning series champion Ty Gibbs, runner-up Noah Gragson and regular-season champ AJ Allmendinger will all be full-time at NASCAR’s top level in 2023.
Cole Custer returns to the Xfinity Series after a three-year stint in the Cup Series and will likely be a title threat. Chandler Smith graduated from the Truck Series to Allmendinger’s former ride in the No. 16 car for Kaulig Racing. Sammy Smith will also likely be a contender for Joe Gibbs Racing, but Kligerman should fit in as a playoff driver in his return to the series.
He is excellent at road courses and superspeedways, which account for 11 of the 26 races in the regular season. That should provide Kligerman ample opportunities to boost his return season and highlight how far he has come in what has been a long, dedicated journey to have a chance to win races and compete for a championship.
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