Parker Kligerman: Ready For A Reboundby Kyle Pokrefky April 2, 2014
It hasn’t been the best of starts for Parker Kligerman and the No. 30 Swan Racing team. In six starts thus far this season, Kligerman has failed to finish in three races with his highest finish coming in one of those three races when he finished 29th at Daytona. Kligerman and the 30 team are looking to turn the corner this weekend as the Sprint Cup Series heads to the Texas Motor Speedway, Kligerman finished 18th in his Cup debut in a Swan Racing Camry in last fall’s race at the track.
The Fourth Turn was able to secure an exclusive interview with Kligerman before he heads off to Ft. Worth for this weekend’s event; in it we discussed his chances for this Sunday, reflected on his race at Martinsville, and analyzed the team dynamic at Swan Racing with teammate Cole Whitt.
TheFourthTurn: It’s been a tough start to the season with various calamities striking the No. 30 team. We now head to Texas, where you finished 18th last fall in your series debut. How optimistic does that make you for this weekend’s race?
It makes us very optimistic, we’re able to take what we know from last year with the new rules in order to kind of see where we can go with the new rules and how to race with them. … We can see the grip level numbers that we made at the mile-and-a-halves or tracks like California and Vegas, and being able to combine all of those things and being able to come up with a setup that we could use as like a starting point at least to be prepared for the Texas race and as well as myself having such a good run there and having a great experience there, I feel very confident going into Texas that we can have a great weekend.
TheFourthTurn: After a tough break in the early stages of the race at Martinsville, was it hard to keep your composure after such an early incident? Or were you able to remain determined to gain some more experience at the track?
You know, after the first five races and now the first six and how bad it’s been and just how nothing’s really been anyone’s fault, it’s just been circumstance. It’s easy to get down but one of the things I did is I know that we’ll be back there in October, so I used it [the remainder of the race] as a test session. We just went out there to try and work on the car and see how fast it could be and see where we lacked and see where we could be better and use it as just a 400-lap test session. It felt like I learned a lot, I was able to show some really good speed, I felt like I had 25th-place speed. We just, we were obviously 97 laps behind so we were able to use it to get a lot of benefits from it but it’s definitely tough to keep your head held high – it’s just been such a tough start to the season for us. You can never foresee anything like this happening in the first six weeks after how well we did last year in the first two races in my Cup career and how good the 30 car was; it’s just been dreadful to say the least but hopefully we can fight back here in Texas.
TheFourthTurn: Is there anything in particular that you learned in your ‘test session?’
Yeah, I think there was some driving things, some things about brakes, things to be learned about how the cars handle and how the tires were wearing and what you need to do on a long run compared to everyone out there. In testing it’s very tough to take stuff from testing because a lot of times you learn stuff in testing in a completely different track condition than what you’re going to end up racing or even be completely different just depending on the weather, depending on the rubber on the track, that sort of thing. So we go to a place like Martinsville and being able to basically – although you’ve got to be racing in that position – you’re still able to kind of gain valuable experience on a race track that’s not in a testing state but in a full-on race state. That’s a great thing – you’re able to get it and understand exactly what you need in a race car at a time where there are people actually racing.
TheFourthTurn: In the next several races, do you feel you need to tweak your driving approach a little bit – perhaps adopt a more aggressive or more conservative style?
You know, I don’t really change. I think I always race with the bigger picture in mind and I always race with the idea that first you must finish to finish first. From there, the position we’re in right now we’ve just got to run races. I mean, it’s been a disaster for this year with the mechanical issues – we’ve had three of them, and then the issue of getting [brake] pressure at Martinsville and also at California we got wrecked. It’s one of those things where we’ve just got to have full complete races to be able to get better and I don’t think we’re really that far off. It’s funny – speed-wise we’re really solidly a top-25 car but we need to actually run the races. I’m not going to change anything I’m doing, I’m going to continue doing — to drive the race car as fast as possible and make sure to take it home in one piece and my team will continue to do what they’re doing and hopefully we’ll turn around — because at the end of the day we’re doing everything right, we just can’t seem to get the events to go that way.
TheFourthTurn: Speaking about California, with Cole Whitt turning in an 18th-place finish in Fontana – does this give you a boost of confidence heading into Texas that Swan Racing’s speedway program is looking good?
Yeah, I think so. I believe we were running, when we got wrecked we were running 19th and at the time there hadn’t been any tire problems so we were legitimately running 19th. It looked like all the cars that I’m racing against were the 47, the 3, the 31 and all of those cars finished eighth through 11th so it was looking like for the 30 car, we were going to have a top-10 day – at least a top-10 team day. That would have been the best finish ever for Swan Racing and the best finish for myself in Cup in six races. It was looking to be a really banner for everyone at Swan Racing and if we could have done that as well with Cole finishing 18th, it would have been an absolutely banner day for Swan Racing. We know we have the right things going on for speedways we’ve just got to continue to evolve and to continue to develop. With the new rules, the sport’s moving forward quicker than ever and it’s tough to keep up with the bigger teams but I’m sure that we’ll find a way to make sure that we do.
TheFourthTurn: Speaking of Swan Racing, what would you say the team dynamic is like with two rookies being the lone drivers for the team?
I think it’s great for racing having two young hungry guys being in a team. It’s one of those things that for any race team it can breathe new life, it can breathe a new air of competitive nature into a team that maybe could have gotten stale. For us we’re actually trying to be an organization that wants to move forward and take the next step, having young and really competitive drivers who you can grow with and have a future with and develop as a race team and also being the future drivers of the sport, that’s hopefully a thing that for a young race team – it’s a blessing. And on the side – financially, we’re a little cheaper, we’re cheaper than some of the guys and I think that’s another benefit for a young race team is to be able to take their resources and dictate them more towards the race team or the race than towards the drivers.
TheFourthTurn: I just have one more question on the team dynamic at Swan; you’ve had the opportunity to work underneath both Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch driving for their respective race teams, at Swan Racing there’s no driver in a mentorship role – do you think this makes this season a bit more difficult?
No, I think Cole and I complement each other because we’re very much opposites – he’s more of an introvert and kind of a ‘just show up and drive’ kind of guy. I don’t want to say- that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t work hard, he does work hard in his own way and in his own right. As far as myself, I’m very analytical, I’m very outspoken and definitely more of a person who would really wanna analyze and understand and research and really be technical about my racing. I think the two of us combined you kind of get both ends of the spectrum and I think it helps on both sides, there’s weekends where I could definitely learn something from Cole and some things he does and there’s weekends where I feel like I’ve been able to benefit him and be able to teach him some things, and vice versa. It’s working out well, I think there’s no downsides to what we have going on and there’s definitely no leadership issues, I think we’re both leaders for our respective teams and as an organization we know that working together is the only way to move forward.
Catch Kligerman in action this Sunday in the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, live coverage begins at 3:00 p.m ET on FOX. For those looking to attend the race, tickets can be purchased at www.texasmotorspeedway.com