Better known these days as a NBC Sports analyst, Kligerman drove the No. 75 Food Country USA Toyota to victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway. The win was the first for the Abingdon-based Henderson Motorsports team in one of NASCAR’s three national series since Rick Wilson won a then Busch Series race at Dover in 1989.
It was the team’s first Truck Series win in 41 starts, but it shouldn’t have been a complete surprise. Kligerman has five top-10 finishes in seven Truck Series starts this season.
It was his second win as a driver at Talladega, but he quickly shifted the credit to crew chief Chris Carrier and team owners Charlie and Don Henderson.
“It starts with having a fast truck,” Kligerman said. “Chris Carrier knows how to build a fast truck and you have great owners with Don Henderson and Charles Henderson. It’s an honor to race with this team since it is one of the oldest teams in NASCAR. To win with them, it’s unbelievable.”
The team had three previous national series wins. Johnson City’s Brad Teague won a Xfinity Series race at Martinsville in 1987. Wilson took the checkered flag at Bristol in 1989 and six races later, he won again at Dover.
Although the team hadn’t won in nearly three decades, Carrier had a feeling of confidence about Saturday.
“Something down deep told me that we were going to win the race,” Carrier said. “I knew it was our day. Down the backstretch on the last lap, we got the push while the guys on the inside were racing each other.”
Carrier, who previously worked with Kligerman with Roger Penske’s organization, believes strongly in the driver’s talent. It was a big reason he recommended him to the Hendersons.
“He’s the real deal,” Carrier said. “I said he was a guy who just needed the opportunity to win races. I’m glad to be a part of this opportunity and for him to capitalize on it. The Henderson family and the people who support us, they give us the tools to do what we love to do.”
Still, few would have predicted Saturday’s victory. Don Henderson talked about how he and Carrier had spoken several times about defying the odds to get back to the winner’s circle.
“When Chris came back two years ago, we told each other we could get this done when nobody else believed in us,” Henderson said. “Somehow we do what we need to do to get to this point. My sister Debbie (Henderson Creasy) is so involved and my dad has been a part of NASCAR since the 1970s, so it’s just a great day for our organization.”
It was the biggest win for the race shop since Chad Finchum drove a Martin-McClure Racing Toyota to a win in a NASCAR K&N Series at Bristol last season. As far as Henderson Motorsports, it was the latest chapter in the team’s rich history.
Teague finished second in the national Late Model Sportsman point standings in 1981 and third in the NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year battle behind Geoff Bodine and Mark Martin in 1982. The team also won seven Xfinity Series pole awards — four by Butch Miller, two by Teague and one by Wilson. Last season, Caleb Holman gave the team its first ever Truck Series pole at the series’ annual stop at the Eldora (Ohio) dirt track.
But, there is nothing like a win. Beyond their own organization, Kligerman believes it serves as an inspiration to others.
“it’s a great day for small teams,” Kligerman said. “We’re a great example if you focus on the right things and have the right people, a small team can succeed.”