Things went bad in a big way for Swan Racing during Sprint Cup practice on Wednesday. Early on, Cole Whitt suffered a blown tire that caused his car to slam the outside wall, which resulted significant right side damage. As the team prepared to unload the back-up, a second wreck erupted in the tri-oval as practice resumed. Cole’s teammate Parker Kligerman ended up ripping a hole in the catch-fence before sliding upside down for a few hundred feet. With just one back-up between the two teams, Swan Racing was in a tough spot. With Parker’s car irreparable, they opted to fix Whitt’s wounded No. 26 Toyota Camry
After working late into the night and early in the morning, they managed to make the car raceable. But the job was only half-done. Now, the two rookie drivers had to survive the duels and drive their way into The Great American Race. Cole Whitt locked himself in with an 11th place finish, but teammate Parker Kligerman wasn’t so fortunate. After an apparent fuel pick-up issue on the final lap, he dropped out of a transfer spot and ended up 17th. That was not enough to make the show, so Parker had to sit and anxiously await the outcome of the second Duel. Whatever happened in that race would determine his fate.
During the second race of the night, he tweeted “This is POSITIVELY the most nerve-wracking thing of my entire life. I’m ready for fatherhood after this. How hard can it be?” After the violent last lap wreck that sent Clint Bowyer flying through the air, NASCAR had to closely look at the video in order to determine the proper finishing positions for each driver. Parker once again tweeted, “No official word yet…. This is insane! C’mon @NASCAR…. We’re freaking out over here!”
The official word finally came down, and the No. 30 Lending Tree Toyota Camry of Parker Kligerman was in the show, via the car’s 2013 owner’s points position. Parker said that sitting there and waiting helplessly was “one of the worst feelings of my life.” Here’s more from PK:
“Pretty big change, eh? We’ll start there. Obviously that was a letdown yesterday, as I said to a lot of people here. One of the most interesting moments of my life, sliding on your roof.But my guys worked incredibly hard. I know you hear that a lot, pretty cliché. You don’t understand, we obviously had our second car hurt. Our guys were trying to put a backup in it, had a Cole’s seat in it. We had to take that seat out. Redo everything. We get in the Duel, in the last lap running ninth with Lending Tree onboard, who just came onboard the morning before, suddenly start to have the fuel issue we had and see the grasp that we had on both cars making the 500 slip away from us, it was one of the worst feelings of my life. Then the worst feeling would be watching that race right there, and I was not a fan of any driver in that race at all throughout the whole thing. Thankfully it all worked out.”
Parker went on to quote 1976 Formula 1 World Champion James Hunt, when asked about luck…“I don’t believe in bad luck. It only brings bad luck.”
Cole Whitt described the last lap frenzy of the first Duel as he muscled his way into the Daytona 500:
“I think we were nose to tail for quite a bit there towards the end. I tried to shuffle Alex out – no offense – it’s the nature of the beast. We were coming down to the end, wanted to get ourselves in. I didn’t want to be the last car in line. I was there for a second. I kind of side-drafted him, put him last in line. Then made a move later, shuffled myself out. Maybe a little karma to myself. Alex is a good friend of mine. We’ve come up through the Sprint car ranks together. Everything focused at the end. I was trying to get in. I don’t know where Alex was behind me coming to the last lap. I tried to pick the best line I could. I knew guys pulling down to the bottom, it would take a while for them to pull up that speed they needed when they were pulling from the top groove, trying to suck up. People were losing guys behind them. I gave the 14 a pretty big shove on the last lap to make sure our run was going to be as strong as possible to the line. Tried to stay hammer down. I didn’t even know if we were in by the time we crossed the finish line. It was a nail-biter for sure.”
Cole Whitt will start the Daytona 500 in 23rd and Parker Kligerman 41st. Swan Racing finished 22nd with Michael Waltrip in the 2013 Daytona 500, and look to improve on that effort this year with a second car and two new faces behind the wheel.