Musical Chairs In The Nationwide Series

On the heels of a major announcement by Kyle Busch Motorsports Tuesday, signing Parker Kligerman to drive their No. 77 entry in the Nationwide Series it turns out there’s a driver he’ll be replacing — the owner himself. Multiple sources tell Kyle Busch is prepared to go Nationwide Series racing behind the wheel for 2013, but with Joe Gibbs Racing, leaving his operation a one-car outfit while trying to return to his winning ways in the sport’s second-tier division.

Busch, with a car number TBD (either 54 or 18) will bring sponsor Monster Energy to the Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide outfit. Like full-time entries Brian Vickers (No. 20) and Elliott Sadler (No. 11), Busch will receive support from JGR engines and chassis in-house while pursuing a limited schedule of races (20-24). Sources claim the move was pushed not by the sponsor but by Gibbs, who wanted Busch to race under his roof if pursuing Nationwide Series competition in 2013.

Busch struggled in all levels of NASCAR in 2012, but nowhere was his slump more evident than the Nationwide Series. Running 22 events for his self-owned KBM operation, he went winless for the first time since his 2003 debut in that division while posting just nine top-5 finishes. How much of a change was there in Busch’s competitiveness? Last season, he finished off the lead lap six times in those 22 starts, equal to his total from the previous three years in that category. During that same three-year span, Busch won 30 times and collected 64 top-5 finishes.

While Busch moves back home, he’s left the keys to the KBM castle with Parker Kligerman for 2013. Driving a No. 77 Camry with sponsorship TBA, Kligerman moves up from the Truck Series after finishing fifth in that division’s championship in 2012. Forced to ride-hop between Brad Keselowski Racing and Red Horse Racing midseason, he ended the year on a tear — four top-5 results, including a win at Talladega in the season’s final five events.

There’s no word at this time on a crew chief for Kligerman — Mike Beam, who led the KBM effort last season is moving over to Red Horse Racing and John Wes Townley’s No. 7. Sources have the funding for the driver, who was announced as full-time secured for just half the 33 races at this point.

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