Parker Kligerman's Big Adventure

Jordan Hollender

Although Dana wanted to replace her fifty-year-old kitchen in 2007, Perona insisted that the kid was a "once-in-a-generation driver." Dana's dad even helped with the purchase of a used midget car to enter in USAC meets. Perona and Kligerman worked on the racer in motel lots before competing at Anderson, Indiana; Indianapolis Raceway Park; and Grundy County, Illinois. They learned to persevere. Having an Ilmor engine in 2008 helped them to form the connection to Cunningham Motorsports and Penske Racing. (Roger Penske is one-third partner in Ilmor Engineering.) Briggs S. Cunningham III, who happened to have grown up in Westport and now raises Angus cattle in Kentucky, couldn't help being charmed by Kligerman when Perona brought him to Kentucky Speedway. Cunningham's father, the sportsman Briggs Cunningham II, left a tremendous legacy in American racing, and part of it was his support of the young Roger Penske.

Kligerman had first set his heart on Formula 1 but now found himself in the hopper with other young NASCAR hopefuls. ARCA is full of them, many backed by inexhaustible family fortunes. Finding early success in this milieu, Kligerman started to rhapsodize about stock cars. He characterized them to me as being heavy, with little downforce, lots of horsepower, and relatively narrow tires. "All those equal something that doesn't really want to go around the track the way you want it to, or do anything you want it to," he said with his usual verve. "So you have to kind of coerce it into doing what you want. Whereas with open-wheel cars, they're designed to go fast and designed to go around the racetrack, so they can kind of be thrashed and thrown around, and they'll take it. You can make more mistakes and get away with it." The delicacy that a stock car requires is a rare thing, he explained. "And that's why the guys at the top of the sport are very well-regarded as race car drivers - because it's the toughest car in the world to drive, in my opinion."

The ARCA Nation was ready when racing resumed on a lovely summer's day at Iowa Speedway. The three-year-old track is a gem: a tri-oval, seven-eighths of a mile, with progressively steeper banking in the turns. Kligerman had practiced the course at home on a computer simulator and knew the desired setup. He started second and took the lead on lap 47. After a bad pit stop on lap 136, he dropped to fourth. Soon regaining the point, he breezed across the finish line on lap 200, three seconds ahead of Richard Childress's grandson, Austin Dillon. I went away thinking I'd finally seen Nureyev.

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