HAMPTON, Ga. – Parker Kligerman could see the checkered flag in front of him, only a few hundred feet away.
He was side drafting with fellow NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Austin Hill while approaching the race’s end, and he had enough speed that it really looked like the Connecticut native was about to win his first career series victory on Saturday (March 18) at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
And then he got hooked.
Daniel Hemric, who was running third, slid up the lane in what seemed to be an attempt to push the No. 48 Chevrolet. Instead, the No. 11 miscalculated and spun Kligerman into Hill.
The wreck turned Kligerman around and sent him into the infield grass. The Big Machine Racing entry spun across the line backwards, resulting in a fourth-place finish.
“It was like the best scenario you could possibly be in,” Kligerman said. “I saw the [No.] 25 coming, and I knew I felt like, with my tires, if I could get to the outside then it just [would] allow me the side draft to the line and that would give us the win.
“I didn’t account for the [No.] 11 nailing us the left rear.”
“The No. 48 poked to the outside of [the No.] 21,” Hemric said when asked about the last lap. “I thought that was an opportunity to get second and we came off the line off of [turn] 4. I went to go grab ahold of his left-rear side and draft him. I think in his mind, obviously, he knows his job is to get to the [No.] 21’s right rear and we just came together at the same point.
“I hate the shot that he took.”
Yet despite being so close to that elusive first career win, Kligerman walked out of the infield care center all smiles. After all, Kligerman still ended the night with his best result of the season so far. In fact, it was his first top-five Xfinity result since 2013.
Not to mention, that No. 48 was fast. Like, really fast.
And Kligerman knew it.
“That was the first Xfinity Series superspeedway race where I felt like my natural skills and things that work in some ways were working,” Kligerman, who’d run seven Xfinity superspeedway races before Saturday, said. “And that’s what…
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