Mayer Ready To Rebound After ‘Super Unfortunate’ Daytona


Sam Mayer (HHP/Chris Owens photo)

HAMPTON, Ga. – Suffice it to say the NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener didn’t go according to plan for Sam Mayer and JR Motorsports.

Mayer had hoped to kick off his fourth Xfinity Series season with JRM in victory lane at Daytona (Fla.) Int’l Speedway, after a banner campaign last year which netted four wins and a Championship 4 berth.

Instead, his No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro left the World Center of Racing in a heap, taken out in the first accident of the United Rentals 300 after a four-car crash on lap 23 that also collected Daniel Suarez, Hailie Deegan, and Kyle Weatherman.

It was a dejecting end to a long weekend at Daytona which saw the Xfinity Series opener pushed from Saturday afternoon to Monday night, due to persistent rain showers in the Daytona Beach area.

Despite that, Mayer’s trademark smile and sense of humor remained on his face even as he shook off “one of the bigger crashes” of his Xfinity Series career.

“I’m glad it looked like a hard hit, because it felt like one from my seat,” Mayer noted, lightheartedly responding to a media member’s question after walking out of the infield care center Monday night.

“JRM and everyone back at the shop did a great job of building a safe race car, so props to them and man … it’s just a tough deal,” added the Franklin, Wis., native. “We didn’t even get to see the [first] green checkered [stage break flag]. Unfortunately, that’s part of racing at this place and part of trying to make things happen in the draft. Everyone [in the lead pack] decided to run [against] the wall, and I understand it, but we were all in a spot where we could get stage points, and no one wanted to do that.

“Just frustrating dealing with that type of racing. … But I was, honestly, having a blast out there.”

In recalling the crash that ended his night in Daytona, Mayer tipped that he was “just a passenger” in the moments before his car smashed nose-first into the turn-one SAFER Barrier, after Daniel Suarez’s Chevrolet spun down the track exiting the tri-oval and hooked Mayer’s right-rear fender.

“Oh my God, it’s like … you have just enough time to look around and say, ‘Oh, crap,’ and then you’re looking over at the wall and seeing it coming at you before you hit it,” the 20-year-old explained. “It’s such a helpless feeling. You’re just along for the ride. I didn’t expect [the hit] to be that hard. Definitely unfortunate.”

Despite the abrupt end to his first race of the year, Mayer has already put Daytona behind him and is looking ahead to the upcoming Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway Xfinity Series stop on Feb. 24.

He’ll have race entitlement sponsor Raptor Coatings, a subsidiary of longtime JRM partner Axalta, onboard the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro this weekend with a special “High Heat” scheme spotlighting the brand’s heat-resistant, self-priming roll bar and chassis paint.

“Daytona was a super unfortunate situation, but I am ready to get to Atlanta and turn this year around,” said Mayer. “Atlanta is a fun track to tackle, and we were able to pull a top-five finish there last year so I hope we can do the same [this time], if not better.

“We have Raptor High Heat on board this week with a super cool paint scheme, and I am hopeful we can get them to victory lane when it’s all said and done Saturday night.”

With the Xfinity Series heading to the reconfigured 1.54-mile Atlanta quad-oval, for its fifth race since the track became a 28-degree banked, 40-foot-wide layout in 2022, it creates a gauntlet of two straight superspeedway-style races to open the calendar this year.

Though many drivers would say that the unpredictability of back-to-back drafting races to open the year creates chaos for their race teams, Mayer said it’s “not necessarily” a negative that the schedule laid out that way this year.

“It’s less of a bad thing because you can get [the superspeedways] out of the way,” quipped Mayer, who finished fifth last July in his most recent Atlanta start. “It’s great. But in all seriousness, this is one of my favorite forms of racing, is racing in the draft. It’s a ton of fun to go out there, drive, and feel the air as you’re trying to make moves. … That’s the fun part of my job.

“Not being able to finish it off and have a full day of it sucks, but we have another shot in Atlanta and I’m really eager to go out and try to get the finish we wanted to get [at Daytona]. It’s the best type of speedway race we’ve put together as a team so far and I’m looking forward to getting it going, for sure.”

The Raptor King of Tough 250 at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 24, with live coverage on FS1, 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.