Parker Kligerman's Big Adventure

Jordan Hollender

Lofton's twenty-five-point lead looked big heading to Kansas Speedway. Kligerman led most of the race but found himself second, behind Lofton, on a late restart. "I know his tricks," he said after outfoxing the Californian to win his eighth trophy and nudge to within fifteen points. Hanging around Kansas City for his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut two days later, Kligerman went out for time trials and unceremoniously plonked none other than Kyle Busch off the pole. A twenty-three-second pit stop hindered his race, and he finished sixteenth.

ARCA's title was decided on October 11 in Rockingham, North Carolina. Lofton's qualifying lap put him second on the grid and again earned ten precious points, but valve-seal particles in the oil filter forced the decision to replace his Toyota engine. He would start dead last of forty-one cars on the tricky mile. As fourth-fastest qualifier (earning no points), Kligerman's strategy was to lead the most laps (good for ten points: five for leading one lap, and five extra for leading more than anyone else), win the race, and hope that Lofton finished four spots behind, each position being worth five points. Kligerman seized the lead for good on lap 137, but Lofton miraculously pulled out a third-place result to take the cup by a dragonfly's wing stroke, 5715 points to 5710. At season's end, the equivalent of one position on the track in any given race decided the championship. At once thrilled and disappointed, Kligerman summed up his accomplishments: "Anytime you go through such an emotional and physical struggle, you're going to grow up."

When Kligerman was fourteen and wanted to move up from karts, his father voiced skepticism. Dana finagled a solution and told their son, "You have to be extraordinary, or this story will end." Last season, given a rare opportunity, he won nine of twenty-one races in what ARCA officials called their most competitive era. His performance inspired and enriched those who followed him. It sometimes left me searching for words, but not crew chief Chris Carrier. After the Springfield triumph, Carrier invoked hound dogs when he said, "I'm gonna be honest with you. This boy here - he can sniff it. He is not here to run second."

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