Driving a truck team owner Tom DeLoach described as “magic,” Parker Kligerman finally shed the bridesmaid tag, winning Saturday’s Fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway under caution after nearly half of the remaining Camping World Truck Series field wrecked behind him.
Johnny Sauter pushed Kligerman to the lead on the white-flag lap, and Kligerman held the top spot when a massive wreck on the backstretch forced NASCAR to throw the yellow before Kligerman reached the finish line.
The victory was Kligerman’s first after five second-place finishes during the past two seasons. It was a vindication of sorts for a driver who was jettisoned from his ride with Brad Keselowski Racing and found a new home with Red Horse Racing.
“When you get so close to something so many times, you can pick two paths,” Kligerman said of his second-place runs. “You can doubt yourself, you can doubt the situation you’re in, you can doubt everything around you. Or you can keep your self-confidence and look at the positive of what you did to get yourself in that position each and every time and say, ‘Hey, if I can do that, it’s just a matter of time.’
“I feel like switching teams — all the things that have happened — this team gave me a ton of confidence. Halfway through the season, it looked like my career was not on the upward slope I’d hoped it would be on. We were fifth in points, we weren’t really achieving a lot, we were getting slower as a team, and I felt like my career was looking at a position where I was not going to be a part of NASCAR much longer.
“There is a vindication ’cause we won. Winning fixes everything, I like to say.”
The truck Kligerman drove now has been to Victory Lane in three superspeedway races.
“This is a magic truck,” said DeLoach, who won for the 10th time in his 300th start as an owner. “This truck that Parker was driving has won Daytona twice. It won Daytona earlier this year with John King, and now it wins Talladega, so it’s a pretty special truck to us.”
Sauter ran second, followed by James Buescher and Ty Dillon. Timothy Peters came home fifth. Dillon maintained a one-point lead over Buescher in the series standings.
Buescher was just as happy to escape Talladega with no change in the championship battle, especially after saving his truck from spinning out of control on the next-to-last lap.
“I’m satisfied with the day,” Buescher said. “You always want to gain, but not losing is good, too. Definitely, with what happened in the tri-oval coming to the white flag, we could have been 25th. The fact that I was able to hang on to it and hang on to a third-place finish makes it a really good day.”
On Lap 46, contact from John Wes Townley’s Toyota turned the Toyota of Ross Chastain into the outside wall, igniting a chain-reaction wreck that also collected the trucks of two-time series champion Todd Bodine and Johnny Chapman (watch).
Fourteen laps later, a melee on the frontstretch damaged the truck of another former champion, Ron Hornaday, and knocked last week’s Las Vegas winner, Nelson Piquet Jr., and Donnie Neuenberger out of the race (watch).
Justin Lofton led the field to a restart on Lap 66, pulling Peters and Kurt Busch with him. Ten laps later Hornaday’s spin, the result of a cut tire, caused the fifth caution, with Lofton still in the lead. During the yellow, Kligerman’s team changed the battery on the No. 7 Toyota after the gauges registered a voltage drop.
Kligerman restarted 21st, but before the field completed two laps, the driver of the No. 7 Tundra had pushed the No. 23 Ford of Jason White from 18th to the lead.
White and Kligerman were running 1-2 when Hornaday spun again in the tri-oval, his right-rear tire shredded.