After three straight finishes of 35th place or worse, Sam Mayer came into Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Drive for The Cure 250 at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL sitting in a must-win situation.
With his strong record on the road courses this season, Mayer was understandably considered to be one of the favorites for Saturday’s event, and that was before we went out and captured the pole.
Simply put, the 20-year-old driver had a stranglehold on the NASCAR Xfinity Series field at Charlotte’s ROVAL, leading a race-high 50 of 67 laps en route to his third victory of the season, all of which have come on road courses.
The walk-off victory solidifies Mayer’s place in the ‘Round of 8’ for the NASCAR Xfinity Series post-season, allowing the Franklin, Wisconsin native to continue his breakout season.
While Mayer was clearly the fastest car on track, the victory didn’t come without some adversity, after a late caution brought the majority of lead-lap drivers down pit road inside the race’s final 10 laps, and saw Mayer restart from sixth-place.
Slicing through the top-five cars on the subsequent restarts, Mayer was able to make relatively quick work of then race-leader Cole Custer, re-taking the lead with four laps remaining, and quickly pulling away.
At the end of the race, Mayer would finish 0.909 seconds ahead of Custer, who came home in the runner-up spot, while Josh Berry, Mayer’s teammate at JR Motorsports, ended up finishing third, despite having no power steering.
Riley Herbst, coming off a strong run in the NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega, recorded another top-five finish in fourth, while Kaz Grala put himself inside the top-five for Sam Hunt Racing, in the fifth position.
Parker Kligerman and Daniel Hemric finished sixth and seventh, but were both eliminated from the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, despite an epic three-wide photo finish with Grala at the start-finish line.
John Hunter Nemechek finished in eighth place after having to start from the rear of the pack, while teammates from Richard Childress Racing, Austin Hill, and Sheldon Creed, came home in ninth and 10th.
Sammy Smith and Chandler Smith finished just outside the top-10 in 11th and 12th, but both were able to claim enough points throughout the day to advance into the next round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series post-season.
Jeb Burton, who was in a must-win situation as a result of problems at Texas, was leading the race late in the going – after staying on track – when he overshot the first corner, and slid into the outside wall, taking Justin Allgaier with him.
Both drivers finished outside the top-30, but Burton would see his post-season come to an end after only three races.
Leaving Charlotte, the ‘Round of 8’ is now set, and will include (in numerical order): Cole Custer, Sam Mayer, Sheldon Creed, Justin Allgaier, Chandler Smith, Sammy Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, and Austin Hill.
Parker Kligerman, Daniel Hemric, Jeb Burton, and Josh Berry were eliminated from championship contention. The ‘Round of 8’ begins next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and will include events at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.