The final 10-race stretch of the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule begins with this Saturday's Great Clips-Grit Chips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga. With 23 races complete, Parker Kligerman is the lone driver inside the top 10 in the championship standings running for a single-car team. Much like Kyle Busch Motorsports' Nationwide Series program did in their inaugural campaign last season, the No. 77 Toyota Racing team will be looking to put their best foot forward as the season comes down the homestretch.
With Kligerman behind the wheel and crew chief Eric Phillips atop the pit box both experiencing their first full seasons in the Nationwide Series, KBM's Nationwide Series program has produced very similar results this year compared to its rookie season when Sprint Cup Series regulars Kyle and Kurt Busch manned the wheel with veteran crew chief Mike Beam calling the shots. While the fleet of Camrys the No. 77 team have been competing with are primarily the same ones raced last season, to start the 2013 season only one crew member remained from last year's Monster Energy team. Through 23 races in 2012, the No. 54 team had produced an average starting spot of 12.0 and average finish of 12.6 and had scored 738 championship points. This season, the No. 77 team has also posted an average starting spot of 12.0, have an average finish of 14.0 and have collected 696 championship points.
Last weekend's event at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway marked the first time in 2013 that the team wasn't running at the finish and snapped a streak of 27 consecutive Nationwide Series races that Kligerman was around to see the checkered flag. By finishing races this season and building a notebook of information, the team has been able to continually make improvements to its fleet of Camrys.
The No. 77 Toyota Racing team's progress is evident by the gains that the team has made with the speed of its Toyotas. Kligerman's Green Flag Speed ranking has improved from 12.4 over the first 16 races to 11.7 across the last seven. With the increased speed, the Connecticut native has qualified inside the top 10 for six of the last seven events after qualifying inside the top 10 just six times over the first 16 races. Along with the improvement in starting position, the 23-year-old has improved his Average Running Position from 14.5 over the first 16 races to 13.86 the last seven races. While he has showed improved speed, for reasons mostly beyond his control the youngster has only been able to muster two top-10 finishes across the last seven events and an average finish of 16.2 compared to an average finish of 12.9 over the first 16 races.
The final 10 races of the 2012 season where when KBM's program flourished in its rookie season. Kyle Busch captured the team's first-ever Nationwide Series pole at Atlanta and went on to collect two more before the season was over - Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway. Over the final 10 events last season, the team registered seven top-five and nine top-10 finishes, resulting in an average finish of 6.4 during the final stretch.
This weekend the No. 77 Toyota team will roll out one of two new Camry's built in-house at KBM chassis this season, KBM-12, in hopes of improving upon the respectable sixth-place finish the car produced in its most recent start at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill in July. KBM's 'gritty' single-car team begins the final 10-race stretch of the season looking to produce 'great' results and end the 2013 season on a high note just as its predecessors did in 2012.