Swan Racing’s Parker Kligerman impresses with P18 in NASCAR Cup debut

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In ordinary circumstances, an 18th place isn’t much to write home about.

Unless you’re making your NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut. And you’re running a five-year old chassis. And you’re running with an engine built by a privateer builder as opposed to one from one of the power house factory efforts.

Check all of the above boxes for Parker Kligerman, 23 of Westport, Ct., and a veteran of the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series who put in one of the most impressive debut Cup drives in years in the No. 30 Swan Racing Toyota.

He finished 18th in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, which marked Swan’s fourth top-20 finish of the season.

Swan, an emerging operation led by Brandon Davis, provided Kligerman his opportunity in Texas on Sunday after David Stremme (25 races), Cole Whitt (6 races), Michael Waltrip and Kevin Swindell (1 race apiece) had previously steered the car this season.

An uneventful but consistent drive for Kligerman, who qualified 23rd, saw him in and around the top 20 all race. Kligerman finished ahead of presumptive 2014 Cup rookies Austin Dillon (22nd in a fourth Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) and Kyle Larson (23rd in the Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet). Larson’s finish was his first in three Cup starts.

The machinery is a five-year-old ex-Ganassi chassis paired with a Triad-built engine, which is not a factory effort.

With a run like this, we’re hopeful of seeing Kligerman in more Cup races down the road.

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.