Pocono to Prom for Parker Kligerman
By Dino Oberto … “Keeping Track”
When the Pocono ARCA 200 gets underway this Saturday afternoon at 1:00pm, of the possible winners expect to see 18-year old Parker Kligerman among them.
Kligerman is running this season as a Penske Development Driver for Cunningham Motorsports and considering that Roger Penske is the winningest car owner at Pocono with victories coming there in NASCAR, ARCA, Indy Car and Sports Cars, there’s a good chance of picking the upstart as an odds on favorite.
As the most recent winner on the ARCA tour which was at Toledo Speedway and with an additional three top-5 and five top-10 finishes in six starts it has enabled him to maintain a solid second in points behind leader Justin Lofton.
If a win does occur you’ll have to excuse Kligerman if he doesn’t stick around long to enjoy any post race celebrations and for good reason. It’s prom night back home in Westport, Conn., and he has no plans off missing out on the special evening.
"Prom is the night of Pocono," said Kligerman. "So it's about 3 hours and 1 minute on MapQuest from Pocono Raceway to prom. I think that I can make it because if I got there about 6 or 6:30 p.m., prom doesn't start until 7:30 p.m. or so.
Getting through high school and learning to be a professional stock driver for one of the most prominent names in motorsports has been a bit of a balancing act.
“It's kind of a hectic schedule. I go to Staples High School. It's the public school in my hometown of Westport, Connecticut. I have a lot of support from my principal. The day that I walked into school freshman year I said 'You know I want to be a racecar driver and I'm going to have to travel a lot.'
“I didn't know exactly how far I was going to go but at the time I was racing open wheel cars on the West Coast. He (principal) said as long as you keep your grades up, it's a cool endeavor, we like it. My parents said, 'well it keeps you focused so we'll support it as much as we can as long as you keep your grades up.'
“Last quarter I was able to pull it off with some pretty good grades at school but it's been tough. I think this quarter has been the toughest just because we have had races every weekend and testing a lot,” he continued.
“Thankfully being a senior in High School has been good because my teachers have been kind of lenient with it and let me make up school work late. It hasn't been too hard, socially. I haven't missed that much, I don't think. Obviously you don't get to live the 'Senior Year' of High School and that sort of laid back lifestyle but I'm doing something really cool instead so it's okay.”
What a difference a year makes. A year ago Kligerman wasn’t allowed into the garage area where NASCAR was competing due to his age and now he finds himself with powerful Penske Racing. Whenever a driver gets the nod to drive for Penske they usually don’t look much further and can be set for their career.
“It's amazing to be part of such an iconic organization, Penske Racing. Obviously, I play a very small part right now but just being able to walk in that shop and utilize some of their things like the strength trainers there or leaning on them for pit stop practice or all of the extra team stuff there,” said Kligerman.
“And superspeedway stuff, I was able to ask David Stremme and Justin Allgaier questions like 'what do I look out for' so it's helping to accelerate my learning curve and having that connection has helped make me feel like I have a future instead of just being another driver in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. We're seeing the fruits of those labors right now.”
At 18-years old Kligerman is part of a growing number of young talent being sought by car owners. 19-year olds Joey Logano and Chase Mattioli are also Pocono ARCA entries.
“I am probably at the perfect age right now because hopefully if things rebound in the next two years or so by the time I am ready to enter the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series the economy will have turned around and there will be more opportunities for me,” said Kligerman.
Kligerman will be up for a real challenge when he gets to Pocono, one of the most unique shaped ovals anywhere with three distinct corners. Many drive it like a road course which should work well for him as part of his background stems from the Formula TR Pro Series where he won 11 of 14 races in which he competed in. He has also raced USAC midgets .
“Right now the goal is to win as many races as possible and win the championship and we'll think about my future after that later on. I haven't even thought about what happens after this. Obviously, as a driver I want to move up and go somewhere but that's not my decision at this point so I haven't really thought about it. We're just focused on winning this championship right now,” admitted Kligerman.
For the record, the last ARCA driver to win at Pocono, Allgaier in August 2008, he went on to claim the championship and is now racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Penske Racing.