Martinsville Runner-Up Gets Mayer’s Year On Track


Sam Mayer (Jacob Seelman/Race Face Digital photo)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – A bitter run of bad luck to open the NASCAR Xfinity Series season finally came to an end Saturday night for Sam Mayer and his JR Motorsports team.

Well, for the most part, anyway.

Mayer recorded a much-needed runner-up finish at Martinsville Speedway in the DUDE Wipes 250, with one of the fastest cars on the property during the second half of the race.

However, a late overtime attempt at the .526-mile paper clip left Mayer a bit soured after taking the lead with eight laps to go, only to be shoved out of the way during the final restart.

Mayer’s No. 1 10X Health Chevrolet Camaro was the only car able to run down and pass eventual winner Aric Almirola, making the move on lap 243 just before a five-car melee on the frontstretch forced the last of 10 yellow flags and bunched the field up for extra distance.

That left the Franklin, Wis., native vulnerable on the bottom lane when the green flag waved for the final time, as he was pushed so hard into turn one by Sheldon Creed’s Toyota GR Supra that it washed Mayer into the middle groove and created a three-wide situation through the corner.

The scramble allowed Almirola to surge ahead off the outside of turn two and motor on to the victory, leaving Mayer to settle for second after believing he had a shot at the grandfather clock trophy in the closing laps.

“I think that we did everything that we could,” said Mayer of trying to secure his first win of the year. “The history book at Martinsville is filled with those kinds of moves, so I knew [getting hit from behind] was inevitable. That overtime was the best launch I’d had on restarts all day. We were really, really good. Super proud of everyone. To be in that position at the end is all you can ask for here at this racetrack.

“Obviously, we were a little bit short, but after some of the things we’ve been through in these first few months it is nice to get out of here with some good points and know that we do have the pace we need.”

Martinsville marked the first real vestige of good fortune Mayer had so far in the Xfinity Series season. He flipped his track position early by pitting midway through stage one and staying out during the first stage break at lap 60.

From there, Mayer largely maintained position inside the top five for the last two-thirds of the race, though it wasn’t until the last 60 laps that his real speed began to come to the forefront.

“We were super fast, which was a great feeling,” he said, a small smile coming back to his face. “We didn’t have to use any crazy strategy; we didn't have to do anything stupid … we made it there naturally, and that’s exactly what you want as a driver. We’re finally getting the bonus program going at the shop for all the guys that work their tails off to make these cars go as fast as they do, which is great to see and great for morale.

“I’ll keep saying it, but we really needed a run like this to get our season going finally.”

Crashing out of three of the first four races of the season – at Daytona (Fla.) Int’l Speedway, Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway, and Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway – and a fourth incident at Richmond (Va.) Raceway a week ago that left him four laps down at the end put Mayer in a deep points hole in the first quarter of the year.


Sam Mayer (1) battles Parker Kligerman Saturday at Martinsville Speedway. (Jacob Seelman/RFD photo)

Mired 20th in points through six races, Saturday night marked Mayer’s best Xfinity Series finish since the win at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway last October that propelled him to his first Championship 4 appearance.

Getting back to that stage remains the goal for Mayer this season, and Martinsville provided the first major step toward doing just that.

“This season started as a bag of trash: sad, ugly, disappointing, all the terrible words that you can say about something, so to have a night like this being a really good points day lets us start digging ourselves out of that ditch,” the 20-year-old explained. I’ve said all year that I feel like I’m letting everyone down, but Dale [Earnhardt Jr., team co-owner] said when I was wrecking all those race cars four or five years ago … that’s when I was letting people down. Finishing the race and doing the best we could with what we had given the situation is, like I said before, all you can ask for as a team owner or a driver.

“I think we’re on the upswing for literally everything now, and all we can do is go up from here,” tipped the 20-year-old. Obviously, I’m mad I’m not kissing a grandfather clock, but golly, I finished a fricking race, so I guess we’re all good in that respect.”

Mayer and the rest of the Xfinity Series field will return to action Saturday, April 13 at Texas Motor Speedway with the running of the Andy’s Frozen Custard 300.

William Byron won last year’s Xfinity Series race at the 1.5-mile Texas oval, held in September during the first round of the playoffs.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.