Parker Kligerman chosen as backup driver for Kurt Busch in NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600

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Parker Kligerman will serve as backup driver for Kurt Busch during this weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race activities, as well as next weekend’s activities leading up to the May 25 Coca-Cola 600, both at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday morning that Kligerman will fill in for Busch in the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for both races.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity and want to thank everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for entrusting me with the Haas Automation Chevy,” Kligerman said in a SHR media release. “For these next two weeks, my sole focus is to help the No. 41 team compete at a high level, no matter how big or small my role might be.”

There are at least two (and possibly three) initial time conflicts that will put Kligerman in Busch’s stead at Charlotte:

* Busch will be taking part in Indianapolis 500 practice on Friday, making him unable to also take part in practice for the All-Star race.

* Indy 500 qualifying is Saturday and runs until 6 pm ET. With qualifying for the Sprint All-Star Race slated to start at 7:10 pm ET, it’s unlikely Busch will make it to CMS in time, which means Kligerman will once again get behind the wheel. Busch should, however, be able to arrive to compete in the actual All-Star race itself, which offers a $1 million prize to the winner.

* If weather forces the All-Star race to be postponed until Sunday, Kligerman would likely race for Busch, who will be taking part in Indy 500 Pole Day.

A fourth scenario is also possible:

* Busch will attempt to become the first driver to do the Indy-Charlotte “double” – racing in both the 500 and 600 on the same day, for a total of 1,100 miles – since 2004. The 500 starts at 12:15 pm ET, while the 600 starts at 6 pm ET. If the 500 is delayed by weather, or Busch is late arriving in Charlotte, Kligerman would then start in Busch’s place in the 600.

If that occurs, Kligerman would earn the resulting driver’s points, not Busch. Once he were to arrive at CMS, Busch would take over for Kligerman in a driver switch during a pit stop in the longest and most grueling race on the NASCAR schedule.

“Parker and I were teammates a few years ago when we were together at Penske (Racing) and his feedback was always really good,” Busch said in a statement. “Plus, we’re built about the same, and that’s really important as we don’t want to have to adjust seats or pedal positions inside the race car. I’m confident in Parker’s abilities and know that my Haas Automation Chevrolet is in good hands.”

Kligerman, 23, has made 10 career Sprint Cup starts, 51 Nationwide Series starts and 50 Camping World Truck Series starts in his career. The Westport, Conn., native recently lost his ride with Swan Racing in the Cup series when the organization was forced to fold due to difficulties attracting sponsorship.

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Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”