Parker Kligerman may be a popular TV racing commentator, but the 31-year-old Connecticut driver reminded the NASCAR world that he’s a race car driver first and foremost, by winning the Inaugural O’ Reilly Auto Parts 150 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
In the end, Kligerman held off three-time race winner Smith – the two crossing the line side by side with Kligerman’s #75 Henderson Racing Chevrolet taking a 0.119s margin of victory in a race that ended with all the drama expected from a road test.
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Smith – who won at Circuit of the Americas and finished second in Sonoma and Mid-Ohio – takes home a big “consolation prize” with his second place on Saturday. He heads to the regular season finale in two weeks just two points from winning the 2022 regular season Camping World Truck Series championship.
Saturday’s win is Kligerman’s third career series win and first since 2017. He becomes the 17th consecutive different winner in the series on a road course.
“It’s hard to put into words [what this means]. I was quite emotional during the recovery lap because this whole team — it’s like a second-chance team,” said a Kligerman who was absolutely delighted with his small team.
“Two years ago, I thought my driving days were over. This team called me, wanting to get back to racing and it’s just been a steady improvement.
“It’s just amazing when you get a group of talented humans together, which they accomplish,” Kligerman said of his Henderson Racing team, which employs just one full-time crew member. . “And we do that on absolutely a fraction of the trucks we come across.
“It’s a small team that ‘could’, but we’re not a small team that doesn’t win,” Kligerman shouted as he turned to the crowd. “We win.”
Corey Heim was making it a three-truck contest for the trophy, rolling wheel-to-wheel with Kligerman and Smith for what would have been an extra $150,000 Triple Truck Challenge bonus when his #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota suddenly lost power. That brought out the seventh cautionary period of the day and left the trophy to be decided in a frenetic three-lap sprint by Kligerman and Smith, who each won a stage.
Kligerman, who led 56 of the race’s 67 fastest laps, also earned a $50,000 bonus for his win in the third and final round of the Triple Truck Challenge.
Carson Hocevar finished third with Stewart Friesen and Christian Eckes completing the top five. Chandler Smith, Kaz Grala, Derek Kraus and Shelby Howard finished sixth to ninth with Hailie Deegan picking up a 10th place finish – her first top 10 of the 2022 season.
Mid-Ohio has been particularly tough for race favorites and championship contenders.
John Hunter Nemechek, who entered the race behind Smith by just 21 points in the standings, was still hoping to race for his second consecutive Camping World Truck Series regular season championship. Instead, the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota of Nemechek had mechanical issues near the middle of the race.
The KBM team intervened on the truck in the garage to repair a third gear problem. Nemechek returned to the race with just 18 laps to go and was able to make up enough ground to stay in second place in the standings – tied with Chandler Smith – but now 58 points behind Zane Smith.
Defending series champion Ben Rhodes also suffered mechanical issues mid-race and was never able to challenge up front. He finished 23rd.
Drivers Ty Majeski (12th), Eckes (5th) and Hocevar (3rd) secured their place in the Playoff with their results on Saturday. Ninth-placed Grant Finallyger and 10th-placed Matt Crafton are scheduled to battle Kraus for the final playoff spot at Pocono. The three-time Crafton Series champion holds a 19-point advantage over 20-year-old Kraus, who enters the final race of the regular season.
The regular season ends July 23 at Pocono Raceway with the CRC Brakeleen 150 (noon ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The top 10 drivers in the standings will compete in a seven-race playoff to determine the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion.