Date: July 21, 2013
Event: STP 300 (Race 18 of 33)
Series: NASCAR Nationwide Series
Location: Chicagoland (Ill.) Speedway (1.5-mile D-shaped oval)
Start/Finish: 10th / 6th (Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
Winner: Joey Logano of Penske Racing (Ford)
Parker Kligerman and the No. 77 Toyota Racing team overcame an engine issue in final practice and a slow pit stop just past the halfway mark to bring home a solid sixth-place finish in the STP 300 at Chicagoland (Ill.) Speedway in Joliet. After qualifying 10th with a backup engine, the talented youngster ran inside the top 10 for all but a handful of circuits in the 200-lap event and was on the cusp of a top-five finish until he surrendered the fifth spot to last week's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner Brian Vickers with three laps remaining. With his seventh top-10 finish of the season, the 22-year-old moved into a tie with Trevor Bayne for ninth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship standings.
"We ran in the top-10 most of the day," said Kligerman, who registered his second top-10 finish in three Nationwide Series starts at Chicagoland. "We had a few bad mishaps in the pits and got shuffled back a little bit. We fought our way back all the way to fifth with five to go and just lost ground on that 20 car (Brian Vickers). This was a brand new race car we brought to the track after Kentucky, first time we've raced it after that. I'm really proud of our whole organization for putting together this race car."
Kligerman got off to a strong start, advancing two positions to eighth by the time the first caution of the race occurred just a half lap into the race for an expired engine. When the race resumed, he made his way up to the seventh spot on lap 23, but just two laps later had fallen to ninth as the race continued under a long green-flag run.
The No. 77 Toyota Racing team made their first stop of the day from the ninth position, for four tires and fuel, under caution on lap 49. Kligerman took the lap-53 restart from the 10th spot. By lap 70, the Connecticut native maneuvered his way up to sixth as he communicated to crew chief Eric Phillips, "need the front end in the track more without losing the rear end." As the race continued under a long green-flag run, he described his Camry as "loose on throttle" and fell back to the seventh spot before making a scheduled stop on lap 104.
When pit stops cycled through, the talented youngster was scored in the seventh spot, but quickly made it back up to sixth. He remained in the sixth position when a one-car accident slowed the field for the third time on lap 114. Kligerman noted that his Toyota was "still loose on throttle," but the team elected to remain on the track, following the lead of the top-five cars.
A one-car spin on the frontstretch on lap 129 brought out the fourth caution of the race. Phillips summoned his young driver down pit road, where the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop with a track bar adjustment. During the stop, the crew had problems with the right rear tire, and Kligerman returned to the track scored in the 14th spot for the lap-133 restart.
10 laps into the next run, the No. 77 Toyota had made its way back into the top 10, where it would remain for the rest of the race. Despite telling Phillips that his Camry was "not great," Kligerman had advanced up to the ninth position when the fifth caution of the event slowed the field on lap 171. When pit road opened, the team administered a four-tire and fuel stop and returned their driver to the track scored in the 10th spot for the restart on lap 176.
As he did all day, Kligerman had a strong restart and by the time the field returned to the start-finish line he had captured two spots. He picked up two more spots over the next two laps and had settled into the sixth position when the sixth-and-final caution occurred on lap 179.
The No. 77 Camry took the final restart from the sixth position on lap 185, but was able to clear fifth-place runner Vickers on the restart and was in a position for a top-five finish as the race approached the final laps. He was able to maintain the fifth position until three laps to go, when despite a feverish attempt to hold off the No. 20 car, Kligerman fell back to the sixth spot.
Sprint Cup Series regular Joey Logano picked up his second victory of 2013 and the 20th of his career in NASCAR's second division. Logano's Penske Racing teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., finished 0.291 seconds behind him in the runner-up spot. Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were six caution periods totaling 31 laps. Five drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead 12 times. Ten drivers failed to finish the 200-lap event.
Kligerman now sits 69 points behind series leader Regan Smith in the championship standings. The Kyle Busch owned No. 77 entry is tied for 11th in the owner's championship standings, 154 points behind the series-leading No. 54 team.
Kligerman and his No. 77 Toyota team head to Indianapolis (Ind.) Motor Speedway for the Indiana 250 on July 27. Live television coverage of Saturday's 100-lap event begins with NASCAR Countdown at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN.