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NWS: Kligerman miffed at missing race

14 February 2010

Paul Menard made the most of his 'buy-in' to Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

But Parker Kligerman, one of the drivers whose team had cleared the way for Menard by withdrawing from the event, was understandably upset by the circumstances that kept him from racing.

Kligerman had no issue with Menard, who survived early contact with the Chevrolet of Chrissy Wallace to run sixth in the season opener. The circumstances that sidelined the rookie driver, however, were hard for Kligerman to swallow.

For the record, with Friday's Nationwide qualifying session rained out, the starting field was set by NASCAR's rule book. The first 30 positions were filled by the top 30 in 2009 Nationwide owner points. As 2009 race winners, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle had guaranteed starting spots, as did Jeff Green, a former series champion who was not otherwise in the race.

That left 10 positions to fill, with the order of qualifying draw used to fill the field. In other words, the last 10 spots were earned - literally - by the luck of the draw.

Menard, who plans to runs full schedules in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series this year, needed five drivers ahead of him in the qualifying order to withdraw in order to make the race. Fortunately, Menard's father, John Menard, had the means to make that happen.

With a variety of financial incentives, five teams bowed out of the race, including Kligerman's Team 42 Racing, owned by Eddie Smith and affiliated with Penske Racing.

"Paul Menard really needed to be in the race," Kligerman said, recognising that Menard is competing for the series championship. "We were in front of them (in the qualifying draw), but we had helped them make a deal with someone they needed to make a deal with.

"As a favour, they said, 'We'll help you try to get in the race. We'll give you something to withdraw, or we'll help you get in the race.'"

That help involved negotiating with a team that had run a start-and-park operation in 2009 in most of the races it had entered. According to Kligerman, substantially more than last-place money was on the table to get him back into the race.

But, Kligerman said, the team in question ultimately priced itself out of the market.

"We worked till the 11th hour to make it all happen, and when we realised the guy we were trying to deal with was being not too smart, we decided it wasn't worth it," Kligerman explained.

Consequently, Kligerman, part of the 2010 rookie class, didn't take the green flag on Saturday.

Aside from those damaged too severely to continue, no teams parked early in Saturday's Nationwide race. Nevertheless, Kligerman hopes his misfortune will cause NASCAR to take a hard look at the way the field is set for season openers. (In the case of rainouts later in the season, teams have priority based on their number of qualifying attempts.)

"I think you might see a different provision in the rule book come Daytona next year," Kligerman said.


by Reid Spencer / Sporting News


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