Parker Kligerman’s racing career had stagnated when he joined NBC Sports in 2014 as an analyst, but then Big Machine Racing came calling in late 2022 and now the 33-year-old driver finds himself competing for a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.
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It’s a situation that has left Kligerman with an interesting juggling act as he transitions from driver to TV sports commentator, normally within a 24-hour period.
“It’s something I can balance pretty well,” says Kligerman, who is the 12th seed in the Xfinity Series playoff field. “The only thing that myself and NBC have talked about … is Phoenix. If I’m a part of the championship (four), most likely, you will not see me be a part of the broadcast on Sunday. That’s out of respect for myself and our race team.
“I know, on the TV side, the level of preparation that goes into preparing for those broadcasts on that weekend, and it’s a week-long level of preparation. It’s a bit higher than any other week. Other than that, … I don’t see it being an issue.”
In addition to learning the intricacies of balancing two professions simultaneously, Kligerman has gained insight into the huge difference between interviewing someone about being on the playoff bubble and being a participant in that situation.
“Man, I thought for the last eight years I had a really good understanding of the pressures that these drivers go through … I feel like I had a respect level for it,” Kligerman says. “But after going through what we did (at Kansas) … I have a new level of respect (for drivers in that situation.)”
One must race with the intention of acquiring the best finish possible, Kligerman explains, while at the same time always being concerned about where the other competitor for the playoff position is during the race.
“You can’t make a mistake,” Kligerman says. “It is one of the more intense things I’ve ever done in a race car. It’s an insane amount of pressure. There’s an insane amount of external factors going on at the same time as you’re trying to drive a race car to the best of your ability. That is something I don’t think many forms of racing in the world experience like we do in NASCAR.”
With the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs opening at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kligerman finds his juggling act a little more complicated. He’ll compete in Thursday night’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race for Henderson Motorsports, move to Big Machine Racing’s Chevrolet for the Xfinity playoff race Friday night, and then execute his pit reporting job with NBC Saturday night. He treated Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., as his Sunday.
“I went and had a coffee and sat on a bench and sort of thought about this moment, what it meant to be here and how cool it is to have this opportunity,” Kligerman says. “To put aside the playoffs, just to be a full-time driver again in NASCAR at my age and for what I’ve had to do to stay a part of this sport is a pretty surreal accomplishment. It’s definitely been a moment of reflection.”