NBC Sports analyst Parker Kligerman announced on Thursday’s NASCAR America that he will return to the Cup Series to drive in the May 27 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kligerman will race the No. 96 for Gaunt Brothers Racing.
This will mark Kligerman’s first Cup start since the 2014 Southern 500. He has competed in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series since and won at Talladega last year for his second career Truck series victory.
“It was about a month ago that a friend of mine and my girlfriend asked: ‘Do you think you’ll ever drive a Cup car again?’ Nah, I think that boat has passed,’’ Kligerman said.
“A couple of weeks later, this popped up. I know Marty (Gaunt, team owner) well, and I know how professional he is and he does things the right way.’’
As a new team, Gaunt Brothers Racing, is allowed five tests during the season. The team tested with Kligerman on Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kligerman said the cars are “vastly different” from what he ran four years ago.
“These cars, technology-wise, have accelerated so quickly to the point where just what you’re working on is so vastly different than what we were doing four years ago.’’
Kligerman said the lower downforce combined with the no ride height rule has “put you in a position where what you work on is primarily how to take advantage of every little ounce of aero, which we know. The way you go about it is so different than an Xfinity car or Truck or what we’ve done in the past.’’
Kligerman said the cars are challenging to drive.
“I think I had a general idea, but I don’t think I realized the extreme to how tough it is to get the cars to do what you would want as a driver,’’ he said. “What it has done to force people to change their habits, I think, is interesting.’’
Kligerman said that the experience also will help him convey to viewers the nuances of driving Cup cars.
“Just in one day of testing it was an incredible eye-opener,’’ he said. “I think that’s what my role at NASCAR on NBC is, to be that guy that can take the experience of being a current driver … understand what is happening and bring it to life.’’