Parker Kligerman leads Daytona 500's non-charter NASCAR qualifiers

Thirty-six of the 42 Daytona 500 entrants knew their starting spots were guaranteed via NASCAR's charter system. The other six had to fight their way in

Parker Kligerman leads Daytona 500's non-charter NASCAR qualifiers

And when the 2019 Cup Series season opener starts on Sunday, sometime Penske protege turned television presenter Parker Kligerman will be best-placed of those who claimed the 'Open' spots in 25th on the grid.

Kligerman should have been ecstatic about making the field, but his first concern was for his friend Ryan Truex - who didn't.

With help from Toyota stablemate Kyle Busch, Gaunt Brothers driver Kligerman drove past Tyler Reddick with three laps to go in Thursday night's first qualifying race and earned the 12th place that got him into his second 500.

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"First off, I've got to thank Kyle Busch," Kligerman said. "When he fell back out of the draft that was what it took. If we didn't have him or all that TRD power working together, there was no way I would have been able to pass Tyler Reddick.

"Ryan Truex, man, I hate it for him. He put up a hell of a fight."

Xfinity champion Reddick and long-time Cup racer Casey Mears had already secured two of the open spots via their performances in qualifying last weekend.

That left Kligerman, Joey Gase, Brendan Gaughan and Truex - younger brother of 2017 Cup champion Martin Jr - fighting for two places via the Duels.

With Gase three laps down in 20th in Duel two, Kligerman's 12th place in Duel one and veteran Xfinity and Truck Series race-winner Gaughan's 15th-place finish in Duel two left Truex on the sidelines.

"This is awesome. This is an amazing feeling. It's bittersweet, though - it's at his expense," Kligerman continued.

"He's a good friend, a really talented racecar driver. I hate we were put in that position."

Truex had finished 14th in Duel one, hampered by a broken brace on his #71 Tommy Baldwin Chevrolet's windscreen.

"Once that happened, I felt like my car was pretty draggy, so it's just hard to suck up like it needed to," Truex said. "Kind of a freak deal."

This year's race will be 43-year-old Gaughan's fourth 500 start and his third in as many seasons.

"I swear to God, I don't think I've ever had butterflies this big in almost 10 years," said the Beard Motorsports driver, pictured below.

"I've never smelt more tyre smoke, more tyre oil - I've never smelt more things about to be a catastrophe that weren't really there in my life.

"I haven't felt like this since I was a teenager in this sport."

Until becoming part of the Gaunt Brothers programme last season, 26-year-old Kligerman had not been in the Cup field since his former team Swan Racing shut down in 2014.

He had become better known as part of NASCAR's television broadcasting team, a role he combined with partial campaigns at lower levels.

Kligerman hopes he can now build a proper Cup future with Marty Gaunt's squad.

"We are looking this year at doing the first three races. Then the hope is probably 12 races all season," Kligerman explained.

"A big thing that Marty Gaunt is doing, I applaud him for this, is quality over quantity.

"He's trying to build this Cup team in the right way.

"It's one of these deals where it's one race a month. When we show up, it's a race we feel we can be competitive in, roll out a Toyota Camry that can compete at a level we feel proud of.

"Doesn't mean we're going to show up racing for wins, we're a small Cup team. It means we go out there and beat cars that race week in, week out.

"I know he has grand ambitions for the future for this race team. I hope to be in those discussions."

Daytona 500 starting grid

Pos Driver Team Car
1 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
2 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
3 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
4 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford
5 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford
6 Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
7 Paul Menard Wood Brothers Racing Ford
8 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
9 Matt DiBenedetto Leavine Family Racing Toyota
10 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
11 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
12 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
13 Darrell Wallace Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet
14 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford
15 Chris Buescher JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
16 Jamie McMurray Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
17 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
18 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
19 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing Ford
20 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
21 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
22 Ty Dillon Germain Racing Chevrolet
23 Daniel Suarez Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
24 David Ragan Front Row Motorsports Ford
25 Parker Kligerman Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota
26 Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
27 Landon Cassill StarCom Racing Chevrolet
28 Erik Jones Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
29 Daniel Hemric Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
30 Brendan Gaughan Beard Motorsports Chevrolet
31 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
32 Corey LaJoie Go FAS Racing Ford
33 Matt Tifft Front Row Motorsports Ford
34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford
35 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford
36 Ross Chastain Premium Motorsports Chevrolet
37 Cody Ware Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet
38 B.J. McLeod Petty Ware Racing Chevrolet
39 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
40 Casey Mears Germain Racing Chevrolet


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