Allen Gregory Bristol Herald Currier
Bristol, Tennessee. – NASCAR fans in southwest Virginia and northeastern Tennessee had reason to celebrate on July 9 when Parker Kligerman stormed a truck series victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Track at the familiar Abingdon-based 75th dining area of Abingdon Motorsports entry.
Tonight at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kligerman and the local boys will try to delight those same fans on their original track.
“Every race in Bristol is like a Super Bowl for us,” said team founder and owner Charlie Henderson. “With Parker in the truck, I think we have a chance to win any race.”
Tonight the UNOH 200 will start the playoff round of 8 for the Truck Series.
Zane Smith has a nine-point margin at the top of the standings over Chandler Smith and John Hunter Nemeczyk.
Chandler Smith, who drives a Kyle Busch Motorsports car, is the defending champion for the race’s winner. He is looking forward to joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. (1997, 1998) and Kyle Busch (2008, 2009, 2010 as the only drivers to win consecutive BMS truck races.
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“Having a good laptop and knowing what works well in Bristol definitely helps,” Chandler Smith said. “Not only did I win there last year, but I almost won in 2019. So, it’s a track that I feel really comfortable with.”
According to Chandler, a strong start to Round 8 in Bristol is vital given the diversity of the schedule heading into the final race in Phoenix.
“It’s very important, especially with Talladega in the middle race on this Tour,” Smith said. “We are willing to do whatever it takes.”
“If you can win in Bristol and join Phoenix the way the schedule sets this year, that gives you a lot of extra time to get ready for the championship round.”
The other Truck Series drivers who made it to the quarter-finals are John Hunter Nemeczyk, defending champion Ben Rhodes, Zane Smith, Chandler Smith, Ty Majeske, Stuart Friesen, Grant Infinger and Christian Ekes.
Nemechek is a strong contender after he managed to win the 10th round elimination round last week in Kansas.
“We started in the corners, won both stages, drove quite a few laps and won the race,” said Nemechek. “We got really good points, but we managed to get more break points, and that puts us in a good place. We have some momentum on our part heading to Bristol.”
In eight careers Truck started at BMS, Nemechek has placed third five times and only finished outside the top ten twice in eight career starts.
“We’re a little bit later than last year,” Nemecic said. “But I’d rather win five races in the qualifiers and win a championship than win five races in the regular season, and we’ll try to do that.”
“I’m proud of all my buddies at Kyle Busch Motorsports. I feel like we’ve finally peaked in time, so that’s good for us.”
Chandler and Zane Smith have three wins each this season.
Few drivers will have more support tonight than Kligerman, who greeted his supporters on Wednesday on Main Street in Food Country.
The relationship between Kligerman and Bristol-born crew chief Chris Carrier began at Team Penske where Kligerman worked as a development driver and Carrier was the crew chief.
“It’s rare that I get the chance to race your best friend, and Chris is one of my best friends in the world,” Kligerman said. “I am really grateful for this opportunity.”
In Season 9 of Truck Start, Kligerman scored five of the top 10 ranks along with three first-place finishers and a win in Ohio.
“We really came up with a few things in the truck that worked for me,” Kligerman said. “The situation started where it doesn’t matter where we go or what the track conditions are because we are good.
Tonight’s program will open with the Bush’s Beans 200 ARCA Menards Series race at 6:30 p.m. Series leader Nick Sanchez and Sammy Smith are the favorites for the championship.
Sanchez and Smith each have three wins this season. Sanchez has been dominant at bigger tracks like Talladega, Kansas and Michigan, while Smith has had wins on short tracks on the track like Berlin, Elko and Milwaukee.
Smith could also clinch the ARCA Menards Series East title tonight. He is vastly ahead in the points standings with four wins in seasons.
The list of ARCA drivers to watch tonight includes Daniel Day, who is currently second in points, Rajah Karruth, Greg Van Alst, Amber Balken, Taylor Gray and Jesse Love.