TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Parker Kligerman thought his NASCAR career was coming to an end two months ago when he was released by Brad Keselowski Racing 11 races into the season.
Snapped up by Red Horse Racing, Kligerman is now a NASCAR winner.
Kligerman picked up his first career victory Saturday in the Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, where he used a push from Johnny Sauter take the lead and hung on as a multi-vehicle wreck ended the race under caution.
"When you get so close to something so many times and don't achieve it, you can take two paths," Kligerman said. "You can doubt yourself, doubt the situation you are in, doubt the people around you. Or, you can keep your self-belief and self-confidence and look at the positives. I feel like switching times, all the things that happened, this team gave me a ton of confidence.
"Halfway through the season it looked like my career was not on the upward slope I had hoped it would be on. I felt like my career was looking at a position was I was probably not going to be a part of NASCAR much longer."
But Red Horse Racing wanted the 22-year-old Kligerman, and he celebrated the team's 300th start by taking owner Tom DeLoach to Victory Lane.
"There is a vindication, because we won. Winning fixes everything," said Kligerman, who inhaled so much exhaust during his victory burnout he "wasn't on solid footing" during the Victory Lane celebration.
It was Kligerman's first win in 44 career Truck Series races. Sauter, who pushed Kligerman into the lead, finished second and was followed by championship contenders James Buescher and Ty Dillon.
Dillon took a one point lead into the race over Buescher, and the margin didn't change. Buescher was content with the points situation, even though Dillon had pushed him into the lead after the final restart.
A spin by Ron Hornaday brought out a late caution, and Jason White was leading with six laps to go on the restart. White was pushed by Kurt Busch into a breakaway lead, but the tandem of Buescher and Dillon caught up and went sailing by on the outside.
That's when it "all kind of fell apart," Buescher said. "Ty hooked up with me and pushed me up to the front, but I think we got there too early."
Kligerman, with help from Sauter, came charging along and raced into the lead, and Buescher could do nothing as he tried to back up to Dillon so the two could hook bumpers and try to push back into the lead.
Then Buescher said he nearly spun in the trioval, and didn't get another chance as drivers jockeying for position started a multi-truck wreck that brought out the caution.
"A third-place run for us in the thick of the championship battle is a good day at Talladega," Buescher said. "Everybody wants to win here, but third place is a lot better than being caught up in one of the big wrecks."
One of those wrecks collected Nelson Piquet Jr., last week's winner at Las Vegas, who thought his result was more about the nuances of Talladega and his attitude than anything else.
"These superspeedways are just complicated," said the Brazilian. "Maybe it's my fault and I was too pessimistic when I got here. I don't like this place, I don't like the way it happens."