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

1 Comment

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.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

MRTI: Herta standing tall, riding wave of momentum in Indy Lights

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

It would be hard to top the month of May that Colton Herta is coming off of.

The 18-year-old, now in his second year competing in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, enjoyed a sweep of the three Indy Lights races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning both events on the IMS Road Course – charging through the field to do so (he fell back as far as sixth and fourth between Race 1 and Race 2) – and outdueling Andretti Autosport stablemates Pato O’Ward and Dalton Kellett to win a frantic Freedom 100.

In short, it was a near perfect month for the young Herta.

“It’s super special to win in Indy and to get do the triple there at a place that’s so nostalgic, it’s a pretty cool feeling,” Herta told NBC Sports about his Indy success.

And all three were thrilling drives in which Herta spent the entire time battling with rivals – Santi Urrutia on the IMS Road Course, and the aforementioned O’Ward and Kellett, and Urrutia as well, in the Freedom 100.

Colton Herta edged Pato O’Ward to win the Freedom 100. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Herta is no stranger to winning – he won twice in 2017 (Race 2 at St. Petersburg and Race 2 at Barber Motorsports Park) – both times in dominant fashion.

As he explained, it isn’t necessarily more challenging to dominate a race versus battling rivals the entire way, but different mindsets are required to survive each.

“It’s a different skill set,” he asserted. “Obviously when you start up front, there’s a lot more pressure to perform, so it’s more about managing the gap to the guys behind. Whereas you’re not as nervous when you’re in the back of the pack, because you can’t go any further back. So there’s less nerves going into the race. And it’s more about attacking the whole time and taking a little more risk.”

In discussing his Indy victories more, Herta detailed that outdueling opponents in intense duels – like the ones at Indy – comes down to thoroughly analyzing one’s opponents and making aggressive, yet smart passes.

“You can see what the guys are doing ahead of you, and obviously if you follow them for a lap or two you can see where they’re struggling and you can make up ground on them,” he explained. “And that’s the biggest thing: going for an overtake that you can make – especially when you’re in the running for a championship fight like this – going for an overtake that you know you can make without taking a massive risk, and kind of seeing the tendencies of the car in front of you and where they’re struggling and when you’re making up time.”

Herta’s run of recent success comes as more evidence of a driver who appears to be more polished than he was last year. While blisteringly fast – Herta captured seven poles in 2017 – there were also a number of errors that kept him from making a more serious championship challenge.

Though Herta began 2018 with a somewhat ominous crash in Race 2 at St. Pete, the rest of his season has been much cleaner. He finished third in Race 1 at St. Pete and second and third at Barber Motorsports Park before his run of victories at IMS.

Still, despite the appearance of a more polished driver, Herta explained that his approach is no different than it was in 2017.

“Not much has changed,” he asserted. “The mindset obviously is still the same because, especially with a (seven car field), you need to win races and you need to win quite a few of them to win the championship. (Staying out of trouble is about) just kind of settling in and knowing that a second or third place, or even a fourth or fifth place, isn’t terrible to take every now and then.”

And because the field in Indy Lights is small this year – only seven cars are entered at Road America – Herta revealed that maintaining a hard-charging style and going for race wins is paramount, in that the small fields make it harder to gap competitors in the title hunt.

“It’s hard to create a gap. On a bad day, you’re still going to be closer (to the guys ahead of you). Like Pato O’Ward in Indy (on the road course) had an awful weekend and finished in the back in both races (fourth and seventh), but I’m only at a (six point) lead. It’s tough to get ahead, so you want to minimize mistakes. It’s tough to make a gap, but it’s also tough to fall behind.”

As such, Herta is most certainly focused on bringing home an Indy Lights crown in 2018, which would propel him into the Verizon IndyCar Series, but he isn’t putting undue pressure on himself to force it to happen.

“In the second year, you have to get it done, and it’s tough to move up to IndyCars without that $1 million scholarship. So yeah, it’s important, but there’s no need to put more pressure on myself for how it is. I just got to keep doing what I’m doing, keep my head down, and if we can replicate what happened in May more and more, we should be in IndyCar next year,” he detailed.

And a potential move to IndyCar is certainly on the minds of Herta and Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, even if the Indy Lights title ends up in the hands of someone else.

“We are thinking about it for sure, and we have some sponsors already committed on this year that I think we could bring up into IndyCar,” Herta revealed. “But, if we win the Indy Lights championship, we’re going to race (IndyCar), whether it’s the four races that we’re given or whatever it may be.”

Herta will look to improve upon his results from last year at Road America, when he finished 12th in Race 1 and third in Race 2.

Follow@KyleMLavigne