Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Parker Kligerman didn’t earn a chance to hoist a trophy in Daytona International Speedway Victory Lane in Thursday night’s Gander RV Duel at Daytona, but he celebrated a 12th-place finish as if it was a win nonetheless.
For all intents and purposes, it was.
Kligerman’s No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota Camry was best among those having to race their way to a transfer spot in the opening Duel qualifying race and earned a starting position into Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Brendan Gaughan finished 15th in the second Duel to earn the other starting spot still up for grabs on the Daytona 500 grid. Ryan Truex, who finished 14th in the first Duel and Joey Gase, who finished 20th in the second, did not qualify for this year’s 40-car 500 field.
Immediately after his race Kligerman stopped by Truex’s car on pit road and spoke with his friend before heading to the media center.
“First of all, I have to thank Kyle Busch, for us linking that TRD Toyota power together,” Kligerman said of the draft help he got from Busch to make his way forward in the field.
“Without him, there’s no way I get by [Tyler] Reddick. Truex was doing the right things in terms of lagging back. He knows if the 31 (Reddick) is in front of me, he’s in the 500. That was impressive.
“Here is the crazy thing. A year ago, I watched this race. I felt like I’d probably never get a chance to be in this race again. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, I’m doing pit reporting during the Daytona 24 Hour. Now I’m sitting up here talking to you guys as a guy that that just made the Daytona 500.
“It means the world to me. This is a pretty good deal.”
It will be the second Daytona 500 start for Kligerman and first since 2014 when he started 41st and finished 29th, his day ending in an accident.
This will be the fourth Daytona 500 start for Gaughan, who finished a career-best 11th in 2017 and answered that with a 12th-place effort last year.
“I always come off as a class clown, but I haven’t been that nervous in a long time getting behind the wheel of a race car,” said Gaughan, who drives the No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. “The Beard family put so much into this and we come here to run very well, not run like that.
“You’ve got to have discretion of valor, you’ve got to make do with what you have to make do with. I had to change strategies on the fly. Darren Shaw, my crew chief and Ron Lewis, my spotter did a great job.
“Thank you, Corey LaJoie. He just kind of stuck right in there with us on that pit stop and that’s what got us in this position, so thank you guys. We’ll see you at the Daytona 500.”