Mayer Avoids Iowa Tire Issues For Overtime Victory


Sam Mayer celebrates in victory lane Saturday at Iowa Speedway. (HHP/Jacy Norgaard photo)

NEWTON, Iowa – For as vaunted a short-track ace as Sam Mayer was during his late model and ARCA Menards Series East days, he’d never won on a bullring in his four-year NASCAR Xfinity Series career.

The 20-year-old from Franklin, Wis., rectified that statistic Saturday with a late surge in the Hy-Vee Perks 250 at the recently repaved, seven-eighths-mile Iowa bullring.

Mayer didn’t lead at all until the final stage, but ultimately bested Riley Herbst on an overtime restart to capture his sixth career Xfinity Series victory and second of the season.

After being 28th in practice speeds on Friday, the end result was a massive rally for Mayer, crew chief Mardy Lindley, and the entire No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro team.

“We struggled yesterday, but our Roto-Rooter guys went to work and did pretty good overnight, making good decisions on this race car to where we could contend when it mattered,” said Mayer. “Man, I’m out of breath [because] I was just huffing in a bunch of [burnout] smoke, but I feel really good. I could probably do another hundred laps, and with a race car like this, it’d be a lot of fun.

“On that final restart, I knew it was important to have the top lane and have the momentum,” he continued. “We were better than most of the cars around us, I felt like, and I knew that once we could get clear we’d have pretty smooth sailing.”

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Mayer took the lead for the first time at lap 169 after using fresher tires to pass Ryan Sieg, but he had to rally back after a pit-road miscue during his final stop with 44 laps left, when he got pinned in his pit box behind Daniel Dye’s Chevrolet and had to make a sharp exit into the fast lane.

That cost Mayer two spots in the running order, and he had to watch as NASCAR Cup Series regular John Hunter Nemechek led the next 31 laps in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Mayer got his chance, however, on a restart with 13 to go in regulation when chaos reigned supreme.

Herbst nudged Nemechek out of the groove in turn three on lap 238, allowing Mayer to follow him through into second as Nemechek’s No. 20 faded back into the clutches of his teammate Sheldon Creed.

Trying to make a gutsy move late, Creed got into Nemechek and caved the left-front fender in on Nemechek’s car – creating a tire rub that eventually cut the tire and sent Nemechek into the wall.

That crash with six to go led to the race’s final restart, where Mayer outmuscled Herbst for the victory.

Despite multiple cut tires that occurred throughout the race, Mayer said he never felt concerned about an issue on his own car with how well it raced all afternoon.

Mayer Herbst

Sam Mayer (1) and Riley Herbst (98) lead the field on a restart at Iowa Speedway. (HHP/Chris Owens photo)

“We definitely got a little bit tight there, handling-wise, at the end of the second stage where I was a little concerned, but Mardy said the tires looked all good at that point,” Mayer noted. “We just took care of them from there, did our jobs, and now we can celebrate.”

Herbst’s runner-up effort tied his best finish of the season, but it was little solace for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver, who wanted to deliver for his team and lock himself into the playoff field.

“I felt like we had an up and down day,” said Herbst. “It was a clean restart. It was fun. I like racing Sam, but [early on] he just absolutely brooms me. We were racing clean for fourth [at that point] and he took us back to 10th … then doors me down the back straightaway later on before the green-white-checker.

“It’s just frustrating the way he wants to race, but all in all, it was a fun day for us,” Herbst added. “I’m happy to be back on ovals. The speed is back in the [No.] 98.”

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point leader Corey Heim matched the best Xfinity Series finish for Sam Hunt Racing, ending up third as the highest moonlighter.

Heim was followed by Mayer’s JR Motorsports teammate Sammy Smith and Creed, who bounced back to fifth place in the end.

Defending series champion Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto, Chandler Smith, Ross Chastain, and Daniel Dye closed the top 10.

Chandler Smith led 131 of the first 156 laps Saturday and swept both stages, but tried to split the middle on the lap-160 restart that kicked off the final stage and free-fell from battling for the lead to 12th place.

The Talking Rock, Ga., native couldn’t regain his mojo after that, and he wasn’t a factor down the stretch.

A day fraught with tire failures saw six of the nine yellow flags wave as a result of blown Goodyear Eagles.

In addition to Nemechek, A.J. Allmindinger (lap 34), Jeb Burton (lap 72), Jesse Love (lap 150), Justin Allgaier (lap 202), and Austin Hill (lap 218) all crashed out of the race with tire failures on their race cars.

Custer exits Iowa as the new Xfinity Series point leader, with a slim one-point edge over Chandler Smith.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series season continues Saturday, June 22 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where Nemechek won last July’s event at the flat, 1.058-mile paved oval.

Coverage of the SciAps 200 is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET, live on USA, the Performance Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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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.