Parker Kligerman's Big Adventure

Jordan Hollender

When ARCA returned to Pennsylvania's Pocono Raceway on August 1, Kligerman began to hemorrhage points. He'd slithered into second place with three laps to go when a desperate move by Arpin checked Kligerman into the wall. Lofton won with an illegal carburetor but received a mere twenty-five-point penalty. Later in the month, Kligerman won at the Springfield Mile, his first race on dirt in any car, and Dana reported, "Everyone in my world is flabbergasted." But five days afterward, at Chicagoland Speedway, he sat third with two laps to go when his Dodge ran out of fuel. Instead of delirium, this time devastation reigned.

Labor Day was the Magic Mile of Du Quoin. After a hard-fought third place at Toledo on the preceding Friday night, the Cunningham team killed the weekend in Marion, Illinois. Everybody attended a Southern Illinois Miners baseball game on Sunday, and Kligerman proved surprisingly ignorant of the other national pastime. Race morning found him eating a McDonald's breakfast sandwich on pit road when funnel cakes and fried Twinkies (and Oreos and Snickers) could be had beyond the grandstand. After overcooking his exit from turn 4 and scraping the outside wall in qualifying, he started at the back of the pack beside Lofton, who wrecked in turn 2 on his own attempt. Kligerman inexorably worked his way forward and led the last forty-six laps, becoming the youngest driver to win either of the one-mile dirt races and the first rookie to win both. And no Du Quoin winner had ever come from so deep in the field. Fans mobbed his trophy presentation, but one woman in her early twenties walked away telling another, "He's too young to sign our boobs."

On September 19, Lofton and Kligerman - Westmorland, California, versus Westport, Connecticut; the cattle car versus the Cunningham car - commenced the season's nineteenth of twenty-one races tied at 4520 points apiece. In third, out of contention some 355 points behind, the classy nine-time champ Frank Kimmel drew a cheer at Salem Speedway, his home track in southern Indiana. But Lofton grinned knowingly and expressed his own love of the bumpy, heavily patched, steeply banked 0.555-mile oval. He qualified second, picking up ten points on Kligerman, who was fifth-fastest. Kligerman fell back initially but at the end carried on a rousing battle with Lofton, who did the season's biggest burnout after nipping across the line a tenth of a second ahead. "I could have moved him many times," Kligerman said, "but I don't want to get into a pushing match for the championship."

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