Upon entering the gates of Talladega Superspeedway, the track radiates a surreal atmosphere fueled by tradition. From producing record-shattering speed to throwing the most epic party in NASCAR two weekends a year, Alabama’s famous racing complex is an epicenter for creating legendary moments that will live on for generations.
Perhaps no one understands this sacred quality better than last year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Talladega 250 winner Parker Kligerman, who has literally stamped his name into the laurels of NASCAR’s largest tri-oval by sticking the checkered flag in the infield grass following his two career truck wins (his first one came in 2012) at the facility.
“Not everyone has that unique thing to them,” said Kligerman, who, with a win in the Saturday, Oct. 13 Talladega 250, could also hoist the Hammer & Anvil Trophy, a 30-inch and 50-plus pound artistic masterpiece given to the NCWTS winner. “I’m almost like honored in a lot of ways to have something that no one else has done.”
From sitting in the driver’s seat to being an NBC Sports broadcaster, the 28-year-old has already practically seen it all in a motorsports career defined by success, change and originality. He hopes to add another chapter to his fascinating story by becoming the first driver in history to win three NCWTS races at legendary Talladega Superspeedway; his two series victories are currently tied with Todd Bodine, Kyle Busch and Timothy Peters.
Kligerman, who competes part-time in the NCWTS, hopes to again play spoiler as the Talladega 250 is an elimination race in NASCAR’s Playoffs, which will cut the field of eight title contenders (Justin Haley, Grant Enfinger, Johnny Sauter, Noah Gragson, Brett Moffitt, Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen) to six when they cross the finish line for the final time.
The journey to NASCAR for Kligerman was unconventional in multiple aspects. The Westport, CT, native began his career driving karts, and after lots of hard work, he landed an ARCA ride in 2009. He capitalized on the opportunity, which then led to future stints in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series with a variety of teams, including rides with Red Horse Racing and Henderson Motorsports where he battled his way to Gatorade Victory Lane at Talladega.
While his experience on the track has been a roller coaster at times, he has always been a fan favorite because it’s important to him to stay connected with them. He remains active on multiple social platforms, and that helped NBC Sports make him an offer to become a broadcaster for a multitude of NASCAR events.
For Talladega’s weekend, however, it’s all about him being behind the wheel where he is most comfortable. With two victories and three top-five finishes in four truck series races, along with a sixth-place result in the Xfinity Series in 2013, he virtually has racing at the mammoth 2.66-mile track down to a science. He watches tape and builds out scenarios in his head about where he wants to be and who he wants to work with, especially in the last five laps.
“When I get put in that position with two laps to go and I’ve got to make a decision in a split second, I’ve already played it in my head 100 times, and so I’ll do it instinctively,” said Kligerman, who credits his bump drafting talent to the time he spent with Team Penske during the tandem drafting era when he would test being linked up with another car. “All of us that did tandem drafting got to experience a whole different type of drafting that only lasted a couple of years, and now it’s gone. And so I think for all of us that did that, we kind of have a leg up in understanding how far you can go.”
By being a devoted student to the sport who is always trying to learn more, Kligerman has been able to utilize his education to capture his two Talladega checkered flags, which he keeps along with all the rest of the checkered flags he has earned throughout his career because he says they symbolize the level of effort and significance needed to win at any level. With a victory this weekend at Talladega, Kligerman would add another checkered flag to his collection, and he feels excited to get back inside the car again to defend his Talladega 250 title.
“In terms of what it’s meant as a place, as a landmark, it’s cool for a kid from Connecticut to win at one of the most recognizable tracks in the world,” Kligerman said of the 33-degree banked venue. “The place is kind of a bastion of the South and a very historical place in terms of NASCAR and to know that when I go there, I’ve been successful and I’ve put on a show for the fans that come to that racetrack … that just really pumps me up because I think it’s cool to know that a place as historical as Talladega, I’ve added to the history of it in some respects and entertained the people that bought tickets.”