DARLINGTON, S.C. – A smiling Parker Kligerman meandered his way through the NASCAR Xfinity Series garage on Saturday, (Sept. 2) afternoon after the 200-mile race at Darlington Raceway.
He was smiling, but make no mistake, he was livid on the inside.
Livid after contact was made between he and JR Motorsports driver Sam Mayer with only six laps to go.
“Inside, I’m livid,” Kligerman said in response to being asked why he was smiling. “But I see the brighter side of things.
“I’ve worked really hard to have this opportunity. It’s been almost a decade in the making. I’m not going to let some kid knocking us around take the wind out of my sails.”
Mayer had been running behind the No. 48 Big Machine Racing Chevrolet when he overdrove the corner into turn 3 and tapped Kligerman’s bumper. The 33-year-old racer went spinning and caused the final caution of the race.
“He came from a mile back,” Kligerman said. “I’ve seen the replay, and there’s a whole racetrack to the right three or four lanes. I was committed to the bottom. I think I had three car lengths on him by the time we entered the braking zone and, to just flat run us over, that doesn’t make any sense.”
Kligerman returned to the race only to finish 24th while Mayer hung on for an 11th-place finish.
But Mayer was completely contrite about the incident.
“I feel really bad about [the incident],” Mayer said on pit road post-race. “I mean, it’s worst-case scenario. I should have probably known that [my brakes] were fading more as that last round went on because going into [turn 3] the previous lap it was half as much as I had the lap before.
“So, I probably should have just known, but I don’t know. I’m racing for everything I got, and Parker is too, and that’s why I’m really going to have to apologize and mean it. Because I do, and it just sucks.”
Kligerman couldn’t have agreed more.
“I think he should [be upset],” Kligerman said in response. “Unless it was intentional. […] He’s a good kid. I thought we were friends, and he’s won races this year, but he does dumb stuff like that sometimes.
“I don’t know. He’s got to clean it up.”
The salty wound for Kligerman was that he had entered the race 12th in the series standings – the final position in the Xfinity Series playoffs – with only one race left before the postseason.
Before Saturday, the Connecticut native was 20 above playoff bubble rival Riley Herbst. Afterward, however, he now sits one point outside looking in.
“I hope that we can get over it,” Mayer said. “Because I don’t want to lose that acquaintance and friendship because he’s an awesome dude, and he deserves this opportunity, and he deserves to be above the cut line right now.”
Kligerman couldn’t help but feel like he lost an opportunity in gaining points.
“We were going to net what? 10th? 11th? 12th? 13th?” Kligerman said. “Somewhere around there and limit the damage and move on to Kansas [Speedway].
“I thought we were going to be better, but that got taken away from us,” Kligerman said. “I don’t know. I’ve watched it, and I still don’t understand it.”
Despite his frustration, the No. 48 team now finds itself in a one-point race between it and the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing team of Herbst when it heads to Kansas next weekend for the series’ regular season finale.
“If we execute like we had in the last 12 weeks and even today, we executed through adversity,” the NASCAR racing veteran said. “We’re going to net a solid day to stop the bleeding, right? And recover from that, and we got it taken away from us.
“So, we’re keeping it interesting. We’re going to make a show of it. It’s going to be fun to watch. May the best man and team win.”
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