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May 16, 2014 - 04:17 PM
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2014 Charlotte (All-Star) Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Parker Kligerman
Posted by: ASkyler on May 16, 2014 - 04:17 PM
NASCAR News
2014 Charlotte (All-Star) Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Parker Kligerman


PARKER KLIGERMAN, NO. 41 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed his role as Kurt Busch’s backup at this weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race and next weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, among other topics.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR SITUATION FOR THIS TWO WEEKS HERE.

"It’s obviously a unique opportunity. It’s not kind of something that is conventional in our sport - to show up and having the chance to drive one of the top cars in our sport in a practice session and be a fly on the wall for the rest of the situations that are going on and the races. I kind of harken it back to my time at Penske when I did it for Brad (Keselowski) on the Nationwide side and also on the 22 car at the Cup level at Michigan two years ago. So I’ve done this at little bit before. But obviously jumping into a new team at Stewart-Haas Racing and Haas Automation, and having this opportunity from Kurt (Busch) and everyone here to have the belief in me to come in here and do a good job is flattering. Hopefully I’ll make the best of it."

HOW DID IT COME ABOUT?

"Honestly, Kurt called me two weeks ago. Actually he was texting me first, and I was like ‘Why is Kurt texting me?’ Occasionally I’ve gone to him for some advice here and there, but this was out of the blue. I started thinking, ‘Why would he need to text me.’ Then he asked if he could call and I said ‘Yeah, call me.’ So he called me and said he knew about my situation and all but he said, ‘This is the kind of call you want to get. Would you be willing to come and practice my car for me and be on standby as I do this double deal (at the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600)?’

 

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"We kind of fit in the same seat and we know this from our time at Penske. He knew my feedback and our driving styles are similar so I absolutely said yes; this is one of those opportunities where you can’t say anything other than yes."

HOW MUCH HAVE YOU DONE ALREADY AT THE SHOP, AND WHAT’S THE PLAN AT THE TRACK?

"We did a seat fitting on Monday and Tuesday. We’re trying to keep it close to Kurt. His insert is in it, his seat belts are in it and his wheel position. The only we had to do is move the pedals back, which we’re not excited about. Kurt and I have to figure that out for the 600 just because he has longer legs. We’re about the same height but I have a little broader shoulders so I’m a little cramped in there. If I do have to drive the car for some extended hours, I will be a little beat up but that’s all in helping Kurt do this, complete 1,100 miles and help this Haas Automation Chevy SS team be at the level they are used to being… which is up front."

WHAT’S THE PLAN STARTING HERE THIS WEEKEND TO GET YOU SEAT TIME?

"Kurt came in Wednesday when it was raining in Indy. He flew back and we were able to sit down with Daniel (Knost), his crew chief, to go over everything and see how it’s all going to work out. Honestly, it’s a

play-it-by-ear. We all have a plan and a set idea of how it should work out. If everything goes to plan, Kurt will be here for everything almost - aside from today. Obviously barring weather and situations that can happen, we have to be prepared for everyone on this No. 41 team. Hopefully everything falls in place and Kurt races 1,100 miles and run up front. That’s the most important thing."

IS PART OF YOU HOPING YOU HE DOESN’T MAKE IT BACK AND YOU GET A CHANCE TO RACE A CAR OF THIS QUALITY?

"That’s not fair to say. I absolutely hope Kurt is able to do all 1,100 miles. Obviously if something were to happen, I’d be prepared to go out there and do the 600 miles and have the chance to run this Haas Automation Chevy SS. But as I’ve said before, that’s not my mindset. My mindset is to help this team be at the level they are used to being at, which is up front and being prepared to go out there and win races so that when Kurt shows up, he’s ready to go out there and have the best and easiest transition between an IndyCar and stock car, which is tough in itself."

HAS IT BEEN HARD FOR YOU NOT TO BE IN THE CAR THIS WEEK?

"It’s been kind of refreshing, to be honest. When you’re at the back end of the Cup series and fighting and in those teams that are struggling a little bit, it can wear on you. I’ve been at this NASCAR deal for five years. I’m still young but I don’t look back. It’s one of those things that can wear on you and wear on you. It’s a little refreshing to step back, take account of where you’re at and look at the opportunities out there and say, ‘You know what…I’m not going to do opportunities like that any more.’ I’m going to look at opportunities that can forward my career and put me in better positions to win races no matter where it’s at and make sure I’m staying at the forefront of the series instead of trying to do the thing of building a team up, which as I think you saw just doesn’t really work."

TWO WEEKS AGO, WHAT DID YOU THINK YOU’D BE DOING THIS WEEKEND?

"I was going to be going to Indy, and I still might go to Indy. I think I’ll be going there Sunday for Pole Day and some other things - meeting with some people, which will be fun. I would have been there earlier than I would have been there now, so I’ll fly back for the 600 weekend. I guess Kurt and I are both doing the same Indy-to-Charlotte travel. We’re kind of in the same boat a little bit but obviously he has a lot more going on."

YOU’RE NOT GOING WITH KURT SUNDAY?

"We haven’t talked about it. Funny enough, last night we were talking about the travel situation and I said, ‘You know what, I think Kurt is flying out then.’ I don’t know exactly what his schedule is in that sense. I know it’s just all in the air in terms of were they qualify and how qualifying works out for him. A lot of his mindset, I think, is to cut down on the travel as much as possible so he’s rested and ready to go."

ARE YOU LOOKING AT A MOVE TO OPEN-WHEEL? IS THAT THE REASON YOU’RE GOING TO INDY?

"We’ll see."

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO GET THIS OPPORTUNITY?

"As I said before, I’m very grateful and honored to have the opportunity and to have someone like Kurt, a champion of our sport, to have the belief in me to come here and do this for him. As we said Wednesday, there is a million dollars on the line in this practice session in what we do here will help him go out there and fight for a million bucks. That’s pretty cool. And obviously with the 600 weekend and all that he has going on, to know that in some ways he has the peace of mind to believe in me to do the right thing with his race car. As a driver it’s a great honor and confidence inspiring that a great champion of our sport has that respect for me. Hopefully I do a great job and other opportunities will come from it."

HOW DOES ANOTHER DRIVER SET UP A CAR ESPECIALLY ON A TRACK WHERE YOU ARE PRACTICING DURING THE DAY FOR A RACE AT NIGHT?

"That’s really tough. Stepping into new equipment is tough and his seat and all that - it all adds up. I don’t expect to set the world on fire because that’s a tough situation, especially at this level. But the things that we can do with Daniel and everyone on this 41 Stewart-Hass Racing team… everyone is a professional. They have a great notebook of what Kurt likes, what they’ve been fighting and what they’ve been working on. They also have three great teammates in Danica (Patrick), Kevin (Harvick) and Tony (Stewart). And so all that information relays back to where I’m giving them feedback and direction on the 41 car - giving them a baseline. From there, they will make the decision on where the car goes through the other teammates and through all that info with what they decide to do for when Kurt steps into the car."

ARE YOU EXPECTED TO QUALIFY?

"I know I’m doing pit road practice; so that will be interesting. But we’re playing it by ear. I believe he should be here for qualifying and everything; he’s planning to be here for the drivers’ meeting and be on time and be ready to go."

INAUDIBLE.

"It’s all in the working stages. Part of that is going to Indy and meeting with people. As I said before, my sole focus is when an opportunity comes, it’s the right opportunity. At 23 years old, I’m still very young to be at this level and at this height in the sport. I’ve got time on my side. So I feel like making sure that when the opportunity comes, it’s the right one and the one I want to do and that I’m enthused about. Hopefully that can forward my career and I can do a good job in that situation. The time in between is making sure it’s right and putting the puzzle pieces together to have all those things to go out there to win races."

DID YOU GET ADVICE FROM ANYONE ABOUT WHAT YOU COULD DO RIGHT NOW?

"No. It’s such a unique thing. I think some people looked at me like I was crazy when I didn’t take some of the things I was offered - especially the people offering them. I guess sometimes you have to look in your heart at what you want to do. Just being here and being part of this isn’t in my interest. It’s not what I want to do as a racecar driver and a competitor. I want to be at the front. I want chances to win and chances to run for a championship. Just hanging around and surviving isn’t something I’m interested in. I would just as gladly do something else that I can be successful in rather than just survive and hang around. Taking the time to find those right opportunities to build the puzzle pieces and put them together… I’m more enthused about that. It’s fun and it’s exciting. I know those things will come together. You never know where everything will lead. But I’m just grateful for this opportunity in the Haas Automation Chevy with Stewart-Haas Racing and to be aligned with another great Sprint Cup team to see how they operate and see the professionalism of this organization and hopefully continue to align myself with teams of this caliber."

IS IT TOUGH STAYING PATIENT?

"Yes, it is tough. Patience has never been a virtue of mine. But at this, I’m learning it. It’s the summer; it’s a beautiful time and I get some time off. When I come back, hopefully I’ll be refreshed and ready go to in a place where I can win races and run up front. That’s what keeps me calmed down and level. I know when it does come together, it will be the right thing."

HOW MUCH INTERACTION HAVE YOU HAD WITH YOUR NEW TEAMMATES IN THE PAST - TONY, DANICA AND DANICA?

"Honestly not much. Those are three people in the sport that I haven’t associated with that much at all. Like I said, Kurt and I were associated a lot at Penske. That was kind of the connection here. I haven’t talked to them but hopefully I’ll get the chance to at least talk to them over the next two weeks and get to know them. Obviously all three are top-caliber drivers and champions of our sport. Kevin’s obviously on fire right now. It’s a great place to be. There is a lot of momentum and a massive amount of professionalism in this organization. It’s a great atmosphere to be around as a young driver."

CAN YOU TALK MORE ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH KURT?

"We were at Penske together for years when I was a development driver. I did a lot of testing when he was in the 2 car then the 22 car. We were at tests a lot together. I was always at a race track around him and that sort of thing. He was a guy I was able to go for advice like when I went to Kyle Busch’s Nationwide team, which he had driven for the year before. So there were so many parallels there. Maybe we will go a couple months without talking but when we do we hit it right off again and never stop talking. So I was not surprised to get the call as much as being grateful and honored. For someone of his caliber to give me a call and as someone who I was thought was kind of a kid who annoyed him sometimes… he had a respect for me and my driving ability, and that was really gratifying."

MENTALLY, DO YOU HAVE TO PREPARE YOURSELF TO START THE 600 REGARDLESS OF WHAT HAPPENS?

"Yeah, physically and mentally. The funniest thing is that I told Kurt two weeks ago when I got the call… I know he’s a little slimmer than me and I have a little broader shoulders. So I stopped weight training and lifting and started running and cardio - heat training and that sort of thing. I don’t know if it made a difference and I didn’t keep track. I don’t know if I am slimmer; I feel slimmer. But in the event that something were to happen and even to do this practice, making sure that we can be as aligned as possible in this seat is what matters most. In the event that did happened and I need to do 600 miles, yes I’m ready to do 600 miles."

SO IF EVERYTHING GOES TO PLAN IN KURT’S FAVOR, THE ONLY TIME YOU’LL BE IN THE CAR OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS WILL BE TODAY?

"Today and a little bit for practice on either Thursday or (next) Saturday. I need to do a couple laps just to be able to start."

SAYING THAT, CAN WE TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT - NASCAR POSSIBLY LETTING A ROOKIE DRIVER TO START A CUP RACE?

"Yeah, and a thank you NASCAR for allowing that for this whole opportunity. I’ve raced in the Trucks and Nationwide levels for now three years and obviously started in Cup for six months. I’m not a full-on rookie; it’s not like I haven’t raced at Charlotte at bunch of times. Maybe they looked at all that and were able to account for that. As long as I get to practice for a couple of laps, I’ll know the car and I’ll know the track. It should be all fine and we’ll go from there. I’m glad they were able to work that out otherwise it could have been a hitch."

WERE YOU ABLE TO NEGOTIATE AN F1 TEST AS PART OF THE DEAL?

"I haven’t met Gene (Haas) yet but maybe if I see him I’ll nudge him or something! I think that’s a really exciting for everyone in our country. It’s amazing deal for someone like Gene Haas to take on. It shows once again his passion for the sport. When I walked into Stewart-Haas, I hadn’t ever been there and it was an amazing facility. You saw all the expansion that was going on. I started to realize that this is a guy who may have been a little quiet but he has a such a passion for the sport and is at such a high level in our sport that going to do F1 is no surprise. Hopefully it works out for him. Hey, if I could ever be a part of it, I’d take it!"

DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU MIGHT MEET HIM?

"I believe tomorrow. We’ll see. It’s down the road but I think it’s amazing for America to be represented in F1."


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