BROOKLYN, Mich. - The tests will continue for 18-year-old Parker Kligerman - he has final exams next week before he earns his high school diploma.
Kligerman was put through a rigorous set of trials Friday before he won the ARCA RE/MAX Series Racing for Wildlife 200 - a victory that moved the Connecticut native into the ARCA points championship lead.
The event at Michigan International Speedway was marred by nine caution periods that consumed half the race, and Kligerman, who started fifth and went a lap down at one point, was concerned he would not get the opportunity to challenge for the lead.
"I was worried, especially when we were sitting back in 18th or so, since it is so hard to get any rhythm with so many crashes and all," Kligerman said. "We knew we were faster, we just didn't know how much we could get up there near the front with all of the cautions. I felt like we'd be lucky if we came out of this thing."
Kligerman got his first break when pole-sitter and previous points leader Justin Lofton went to the pits 40 laps into the race, and Lofton's car was wrapped in smoke and shooting flames. About the midway point in the 100-lap race, Kligerman pitted for fuel on a green-flag run, and fell a lap down as the field underwent a major shuffle.
Justin Marks soon assumed the lead as Kligerman picked his way back through the pack. Marks had stretched the lead to more than eight seconds with just 15 laps left when another caution period compacted the field. On a restart with 10 laps left, Kligerman shot between Marks and eventual runner-up Austin Dillon just before Marks slammed the outside wall. Kligerman held off Dillon when the race went green for the final two laps.
"In the race car, I always feel like I'm in control," said Kligerman, a developmental driver for Penske Racing who won the ARCA race at Toledo Speedway in May.
"We go into these races without any expectations. We go in with a complete open mind, because I know we will always be well-prepared."
Kligerman, who has been out of the top 10 in just one of the eight ARCA races this season, said taking the lead in the points is something he hoped to be able to accomplish.
"Coming into the season, I said that if we get to race the whole schedule, we're going to win this championship," Kligerman said.