Parker Kligerman on NASCAR’s international future, being a nomad and longevity: 12 Questions

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Each week, The Athletic asks the same 12 questions to a different race car driver. Up next: Xfinity Series driver Parker Kligerman. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity, but the full version is available on the 12 Questions podcast.

1. What is currently the No. 1 thing on your bucket list?

To go endurance racing. I make the joke, (every) professional race car driver’s goal should be to get rich and go sports car racing. I totally am cool if it’s later in life that I pull it off and go do the (Rolex) 24, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Bathurst 12 Hour, Nürburgring 24. Most people maybe go play golf; I want to go do endurance races around the world.

2. How much media coverage of NASCAR do you consume?

A ton. Way too much. I’m a subscriber to The Athletic. Obviously, I support all the journalists who are here. What we’re doing with “The Money Lap” (his podcast and newsletter with Landon Cassill) is we take in a lot of the media out there and try to aggregate it in some respects. So I probably consume too much.

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3. Beyond winning, what is the best way to measure success in racing?

Longevity. It is not only incredibly hard to get here, but it’s incredibly hard to stay here. And as someone who has seen the other side of obscurity and irrelevance, I can tell you it’s really easy to fall out of this — and it’s really, really hard to get back. I have such respect for anyone who has been able to do this for a very long period of time. Even if you are successful, just to keep going and keep showing up all the time.

I wrote about (17-year-old) Connor Zilisch, who wants to be the youngest Cup Series champion ever, right? That’s interesting to me, because it made me think about the oldest: Bobby Allison was 45 years old, and I just couldn’t believe that. Here I am, 33 years old — to get to where he did his final championship, that is a huge commitment and huge amount of longevity.

4. What is an opinion you have about NASCAR you don’t think is shared by the fans?

I don’t think the core fan base believes in the expansion of going to things like Chicago (street race), to expand NASCAR from its roots to try and create this new version of NASCAR. Going international potentially, I have a huge belief in that. Because in a lot of respects, I know the U.S. is a big country and it’s the most important (to NASCAR), but NASCAR has so much growth potential globally and so much potential out of what its core direction has been for so long. It would be weird to not go after that.

I see people who come from backgrounds you would never associate with NASCAR and who have never thought about NASCAR, and they come to a race (and love it). I had a group that came to Austin — finance guys from New York and Boston. And after the end of the day, they turned to me and said, “This is the greatest sport in the world. Why did I just find this?”

5. What is the biggest thing fans don’t realize about what you do for a living?

It’s so boring to explain how much of a grind travel can be. But we push it to an extreme. I truly believe this sport pushes human beings to the furthest you can go in terms of travel and living any semblance of a normal life. I was on four or five planes this week already and it’s Friday. You can’t even fit in anymore. And that’s the nature of the game.

I’ve seen some of the answers for this question are very similar. But the schedule is relentless, and it is a grind. I know we’re very fortunate to be here, but there’s no way to truly explain how far that pushes you as a human being when you’re being such a nomad.

6. This next one is a current issue about the person I’m interviewing. You recently touched on the difference between racing full-time and part-time. Is there any way to explain to somebody who hasn’t been in that position what about it is different? What decisions are you making on the track that is different about running a full season?

It’s massively different. There are mental aspects to knowing there’s a season-long trophy you’re playing for, and that you are a figurehead of this organization trying to accomplish that. Whereas in a part-time capacity, especially for me, my main income at the time was television. When it flips the other way, suddenly every result and everything you do is now more impactful. Because it’s become your full-time thing, your full-time income and everything you’re thinking about.

There’s a difference I don’t know if I fully accepted or thought about it before I did it. And then halfway through last year, I was like, “Well, this is very different.” And in the second half of the year, we were way more successful. As a team, we got better and learned all sorts of things, and I got better for sure. And a lot of it was to change my mentality of tackling races and preparing. This year has been a lot easier because I’ve done it for a year.

Imagine just suddenly changing jobs. You think it’s the same thing you’ve always been doing, but now everything is different. Every tool they use, every communication product they use. That’s us. If you move up the grid, or if you go from part-time to full-time, it’s that level of adjustment.

7. So the wild-card question is about “The Money Lap.” It’s been one year ago this week since you started this. But I know from experience podcasting is a grind and it’s very hard to build an audience. So why are you doing this?

Hardest thing I’ve ever done. Stupidest thing, maybe. As I got to the end of 2022, I had really done a lot with NBC, but I hadn’t built anything I felt was mine. I hadn’t really built a platform where I was like, “This is where I talk about motorsports and people know to get my opinion on motorsports and want to talk with me.”

We got to February (last year), and I just called Landon and said, “We need a podcast.” It took months to convince him, which is why we didn’t start until May, but we did about eight practice episodes, just talking to each other for an hour. And eventually we were ready to launch. The hardest thing has been doing it ourselves and doing it with our own group. It’s a great group of young kids I’ve identified from social media profiles and content they put out and said, “Hey, you’d be good at this, come do it with us and we’ll pay you.”

But it’s amazing. We built a system and a process that as long as we did that hour-and-a-half podcast, so much content would get created from it. There’s pockets of serious growth and then plateaus and it’s, “Oh, this is so difficult.” But I do believe it’s rewarding. I see what kind of reviews we get and how much people enjoy it, so that makes me want to do it even more.

8. What do you like about the place you grew up? You’re from Connecticut.

It’s home. That simple. I don’t get there a ton. Right now I’m trying to go back every week for at least a day or two because my girlfriend, Shannon, is going to Paris for six months for the Olympics. She works on the Olympics (for NBC). I was just there this week and went for a run outside and I was like, “I love the smell up here.” (Laughs) It’s just home.

I’m very proud to be from there, and I’m proud to be associated with places like Lime Rock and where I grew up in everything. It is unique to be (from) where I am and not be in finance or work in New York City. To be a NASCAR driver is definitely a talking point at any time, which is fun and different.

Parker Kligerman

“It’s massively different,” Parker Kligerman says of switching from part-time to full-time racing. “… Everything you do is now more impactful.” (Sean Gardner / Getty Images)

9. What personality trait are you the most proud of?

Positivity. I try to bring positivity into the world and try to be a positive person as much as I possibly can. In my quiet moments alone, I’m a very not positive person myself. But to the outside world, I try to be very positive because it’s so boring sometimes to be sad in front of the world. Everyone is fighting something, right? …

It’s funny: So many race car drivers can be such downers sometimes. I try to flip it the other way of just being the guy they’re like, “Oh, he’s happy. I’d rather have him around.”

10. Which driver would you least like to be stuck with on an elevator?

Landon Cassill because I listen to him all the time anyway. We’d never run out of something to talk about, but I’ve heard so much of it. I’d love to have someone who I don’t know well. Then it would be like, “Let’s dive into it. What are we gonna get into? What am I gonna learn here?”

11. What is a run-in you’ve had with a driver that TV or the medium missed?

Carson Hocevar at Pocono last year in the Truck race. We’re good now. Great. I talk to him whenever we run into each other. But we had a run-in where I was just upset with a move he had made that ended up wrecking our truck. Driving for Henderson, it was a small team and a brand new truck for us, a really nice truck. They put so much time and effort and resources in this thing. And he made a move that hadn’t worked all day — it made us three- or four-wide, and I was on the outside of that, and he came up and smashed us in the wall. So after the race, I just let him know I did not appreciate that.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next person. Last week was Martin Truex Jr. and he wanted to know: “Ask him how close he thinks his team is to winning. And where does he feel his best chance is coming up?”

I’ll be honest: If you had asked me this question a year ago, I’d be shocked we haven’t won yet. I have certainly won with a lot less resources. But my confidence comes most of all from the strides we made as a team over the last year, especially in the second half of last year. We still have areas we have to continue to improve, but that’s the same for everyone in this game.

We’ve been as close as you can possibly be without breaking through and I think almost every single week is an opportunity to make it happen. With my love of road courses, obviously those are big opportunities and with the ECR motors and my love of superspeedway racing, those would be the favorites. But funny enough, I think the closest we have been was last fall at Texas.

To sum it up: I feel we are as damn close as you can be and almost every week to me is possible.

Do you have a question I can ask for the next interview? It’s with Tyler Reddick. 

Do you think it’s more impressive to be the youngest or oldest Cup Series champion? And why?



Inside NASCAR’s charter negotiations: ‘We’re all not aligned, and that’s not good’

(Top photo of Parker Kligerman at last weekend’s Xfinity race at Dover: James Gilbert / Getty Images)

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