The latest graduate of the K&N Pro Series to NASCAR’s national series is Sam Mayer, who made his Gander Outdoors
Truck Series debut Thursday night, Aug. 15, at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Mayer, 16, was announced in late 2018 as one of the drivers for GMS Racing’s Truck Series program in 2019. The
catch? He wouldn’t be driving until Bristol in August, first having to wait until he turned 16 (which happened in
late June). In the meantime, he’s competed in the K&N Pro Series East, where he currently leads the championship
standings entering Bristol with two wins, seven top fives and seven top 10s.
As a 15-year-old, he was also strong in the series in 2018, scoring two top fives and three top 10s in six starts.
Mayer’s driving GMS’ No. 21, a truck that makes its first appearance of 2019 with the rookie; in 2019, GMS has
fielded two full-time trucks, the Nos. 2 and 24.
Though expected, Mayer’s Truck Series arrival marks yet another driver who started in K&N before making the leap
upward. And chances are he won’t be the last in 2019.
That’s because the end of each season is often ripe for call-ups from lower series, especially on the Truck Series schedule, which features multiple shorter tracks at which drivers 16 or 17 years old can drive, much like Bristol. Martinsville Speedway and ISM Raceway in particular occasionally feature entries from up-and-comers who eventually move on to full-time national series rides — see William Byron, Noah Gragson and more.
Here’s who could join Mayer from the K&N Pro Series East or West in one of the upper series by the end of the year.
It’s probably been time to give Chase Cabre a shot in a national series race since at least the end of 2018, and in 2019, he’s made even more of a case for himself. In addition to sitting second in K&N East points, 11 behind Mayer, he’s scored his first two series wins in 2019 and has earned three additional runner-up finishes. Exiting Bristol, he’s the only driver in the series’ top four in points who hasn’t made at least an attempt in the Truck Series or above. Seems like that could change soon. Heck, let’s get Cabre and Mayer in the same Truck Series race when points don’t matter for either; apparently they have a bit of a rivalry.
Well, duh. Of course Hailie Deegan‘s gonna get a shoutout in here; of everyone here, she’s probably the one whose promotion is most likely to come to fruition. She’s got the connections, whether it’s via Bill McAnally Racing (which has a part-time Truck Series team mostly driven by K&N teammate Derek Kraus), DGR-Crosley (two full-time Truck teams) or Kyle Busch Motorsports (with whom she’s been linked due to both parties’ involvement with sponsor IK9). She’s also a proven winner, with three West victories to her credit, including two in 2019.
No K&N wins yet for Jagger Jones, but give him time. After all, 2019 marks not only the newly 17-year-old competitor’s first full-time K&N season, but it’s also his first season in the series, period. His year in the No. 6 for Bob Bruncati’s team has seen him finish outside the top 10 just twice, and he also has a pair of runner-up finishes. Oh, and he’s PJ Jones’ son, too. Parnelli Jones’ grandson. We all know how much NASCAR loves a family dynasty.
Tanner Gray‘s another on this list who probably has a bit more of a chance to make it to NASCAR’s higher reaches than others thanks to a connection in the sport. In his case, he’s driven for DGR-Crosley not only in K&N, but also in the ARCA Menards Series this season, which seems to scream, “hey, look at me, I’m definitely going truck racing in the future.” Luckily, he’s shown definite promise in his first K&N East season, with a win, four top fives and seven top 10s. But if stock cars doesn’t work out, he’s got drag racing to fall back on.
About the author
Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.
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