Race Weekend Central

Sam Mayer: From Daytona Xfinity Winner to Upside Down in a Flash

19-year-old Sam Mayer appeared on the verge of a NASCAR Xfinity Series breakthrough Saturday (Feb. 18) at Daytona International Speedway. Heading off turn 2 on the final lap of overtime, he blew by JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier off turn 2 and surged into the lead. A first career victory suddenly seemed within his grasp.

Seconds later, he was grasping the wheel upside down.

Mayer pushed past Austin Hill but lost control when trying to block, sending him hard right into the backstretch wall as the No. 1 Chevrolet flipped over. The resulting multi-car wreck ended the race and left Mayer thinking about what could have been.

“Unfortunate way to end the night,” Mayer said. “Because I feel like we were one of the best … I didn’t really see how the block turned out. Obviously, I turned upside down. But I feel like it was a clean block, and I think it was just a little offset, unfortunately. And I’ll have to look at it for sure to really kind of tell. I think, at the end of the day, I’m racing for the win at that point. So I kind of gotta do what I gotta do.

“But it was a little late. I saw it at the last second, I was clear, but I was just a little late, I guess.”

See also
Austin Hill Wins Again at Daytona, Survives Wild Finish

The incident prompted Mayer to go, “It’s my fault, again” on the radio, frustrated but OK after hard contact. It was the second time in the race he felt misjudgment on his part caused a crash; the day’s first major wreck came after contact between he and Blaine Perkins on lap 19.

“Early in the race, I got in the No. 07, and it was because I was a little late on my move again,” he continued. “Obviously, the reason I was upside down is because I was late on my move there. So I’ve got to work on that for the next time we go to a speedway, just because I have to make sure I can do 100 percent of what I can. Because that was about 95 percent… the other five percent wrecked the No. 07 and turned me upside down.”

Mayer was able to recover from that, part of a JR Motorsports quartet that led the majority of this Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner 300. He combined with Allgaier and Josh Berry to lead 67 of 125 laps, joining with Brandon Jones as part of a four-car freight train that ran second through fifth through much of the final stage.

But JRM split up in the final laps, choosing different lines before a caution came out for Jones spinning on the backstretch off Berry’s front bumper. That left just the No. 1 and No. 7 to fend for themselves, but for a second time, when two teammates tried to pass each other, one of them ended up wrecked.

For Mayer, it was a hard hit.

“The last time I was upside down was in a Legend car six years ago, something like that,” Mayer said. “So, it’s been a while… That was probably the hardest lick I’ve taken. And I thought I’ve taken the hardest one I could, and that was harder. I guess there’s always a higher ceiling somewhere.”

See also
Frankie Muniz Finds Himself ‘In the Middle’ of Intense ARCA Daytona Action

For Mayer, he hopes Daytona is the floor after a solid run drive to eighth in last season’s point standings. A driver who had been known for crashing early in his career had gone 10 straight races without a DNF before this one.

Could he have done anything differently this? Mayer said, it’s all part of it.

“No, it’s Daytona,” he explained. “That’s the entertainment piece that everyone’s looking for. Hard blocks, and pushing, and I mean we’re racing to the checkered flag, so you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

“It’s not always going to turn out 100 percent; we saw that two or three times today outside of what I did. So, it’s just part of this speedway racing. I think with this package we have, it should have made it a little easier to push, right? And I think there’s quite a few instances where I took a hefty push and it actually worked out OK. But it’s not going to be 100 percent of the time.”

Follow @NASCARBowles

About the author

The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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