PORTLAND, MAINE - The New England 200 is still a little over a month away, but a pair of NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers made the trek to the Northeast on Tuesday. Connecticut native Parker Kligerman and Alex Bowman made three pit stops at schools across the city of Portland, Maine, talking to students, faculty and staff about everything from how they got started to what to expect when the duo descend upon New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13.
Kligerman and Bowman visited Glickman Academy-Spurwink, Reiche Community School and the Portland Arts and Technical High School.
"I thought each stop featured something special," said Kligerman, driver of the No. 77 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports. "Obviously, coming to New England holds a special place in my heart, but to come out and visit with all these students here today, that's really important piece of what we do."
The day began with a stop at the Glickman Academy-Spurwink, which deals with behavioral health, educational and residential services for children, adolescents, adults and families. The two drivers met and answered questions in a one-on-one environment, posed for pictures and signed autographs before giving out tickets to staff members to be distributed.
"That was a pretty cool opportunity," said Bowman, driver of the No. 99 Toyota for RAB Racing. "To be able to meet not only the students but the great people that help in situations like those, that's a really great thing for us to be a part of."
The next stop was across town at the Reiche Community School, serving students K-5. A group of 40 students assembled around the two drivers, who answered questions about how they got into racing, which each admitted was around the same age as some of the students standing in front of them. One of those students, 9-year-old Jackson, received a special treat when his essay about NASCAR was read aloud to the group. He was then given a New Hampshire Motor Speedway hat and T-shirt, which was autographed by both drivers before he posed for pictures.
"The kids had no idea at all that this was happening today, just that one of them was going to get their socks knocked off," said Joan Murray, who teaches fourth grade at Reiche. "This is just fabulous, anything we can get for the kids to see what they could be in the future. This is really huge, especially for Jackson.
The final stop of the day was at the Portland Arts and Technical High School (PATHS), which offers a unique hands-on, career-oriented education for high school age students. Kligerman and Bowman made their way to the Automotive Technical Class, where they spoke with students about the ins and outs of a car before getting a guided tour of the large-scale shop. The drivers were shown cars of various ages that students work on for teaching purposes.
"I wish I had something like this when I was that age," said Kligerman, 22, who currently sits sixth in points (two top-fives, three top-10s) in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings. "This is really a great environment to learn the craft, and if they go that direction, can one day be a part of a pit crew and make their way up the ladder."
"This was definitely my favorite stop," said Bowman, 20, who sits in 11th with one top-five this season. "To be able to work on cars, something I love to do, at that age is such a cool thing. It's great to be on these guys' turf today, hopefully in July they'll come down and watch us do what we do at New Hampshire Motor Speedway."
Great seats, camping, hospitality and VIP packages are still available for the New England 200 on July 13. Purchase them now by calling the speedway ticket hotline at (603) 783-4931 or by visiting www.nhms.com.