Race Weekend Central

Sam Mayer Turns Ty Gibbs, Wins Xfinity Race at Watkins Glen

Just as it looked like Ty Gibbs would run away with the NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Watkins Glen International, things changed in a hurry. In the end, Sam Mayer was the one standing in victory lane for the second time in his career, winning the Shriners Children’s 200.

After Mayer went into intense fuel-saving mode late in the race, two cautions flew late in the race to set up an overtime restart. On the restart, the JR Motorsports driver turned race leader Gibbs — who had swept the stages and led a race-high 70 laps — after the two had contact through the esses on the prior restart.

Sheldon Creed took the lead following the contact, but missed turn 7 coming to the white flag, handing the lead to Mayer. The 20-year-old held off Creed from there to capture his second win in four races.

Parker Kligerman scored valuable points with a third-place finish, while Ross Chastain and Connor Mosack — in a career-best Xfinity result — rounded out the top five.

John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer, Chandler Smith, Alex Bowman and Jeb Burton completed the top 10.

Gibbs immediately set the tone from the drop of the green, leading every lap of the first stage. 

The opening frame went caution-free, but it was not short on action. On lap 6, Mosack spun in the bus stop, making a split-second correction to avoid taking multiple cars with him.

Nine laps into the event, Kaulig Racing experienced challenges when Smith was turned by Jeremey Clements in the bus stop, who had suffered a flat right front tire. On the same lap, Kyle Busch, who was in Kaulig’s No. 10, pitted to remove debris from his grill. 

As Gibbs cruised to the stage one victory, Allgaier, Mayer, Josh Berry, Austin Hill, Nemechek, Creed, Riley Herbst, Custer, and Kligerman rounded out the top 10. Custer drove into the top 10 after starting at the rear with unapproved adjustments. 

Just as the opening stage concluded, the first caution flew for Ryan Ellis, who stalled on the track with a transmission issue. When the drivers came to the choose cone, more trouble struck Alpha Prime Racing when Josh Williams ran into the back of Stefan Parsons. Williams said he was adjusting his headphones when the accident happened. The damage ended Williams’ day.

After starting at the rear, Alex Bowman — who was in the No. 17 for Hendrick Motorsports, and had to start from the rear — briefly took the lead after staying out during the caution period. However, he was no match for Gibbs on the restart, who immediately re-captured the lead. 

On lap 30, the second caution flew when Sammy Smith got into Kaz Grala in the bus stop, sending Grala into the Go Bowling! signs and spreading debris across the track. 

The playoff picture grew blurry mid-race after Riley Herbst saw his points cushion dashed. In stage one, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver reported that his transmission was popping out of gear. The next stage, Herbst was forced to pit on lap 37 with a trackbar issue, as smoke rolled out from under the No. 98. Ultimately, the mechanical failures forced Herbst out of the race, where he finished 35th.

Once again, Gibbs was untouched en route to the stage two victory, with Bowman finishing in second. Hill, Allgaier, Custer, Mayer, Berry, Nemechek, and Creed picked up stage points, with Kligerman completing the top 10 and earning valuable points. 

Shortly after Gibbs won the second stage, Max McLaughlin brought out the third caution when he spun in turn 7, slamming the outside wall. 

That would bring the field down pit road, where Hill’s team got him out just ahead of Gibbs. However, after Kyle Weatherman stayed out to assume the lead, Gibbs was able to get by both him and Hill to go back to the lead. 

With 19 laps to go, Bowman and Custer were battling for third when they made contact in turn 1, sending both drivers around. While Bowman stayed in the top five, Custer spun in the esses on the next lap, sending him back to 20th.

A few laps later, Busch’s struggles continued when his car lost third gear, causing him to slowly decline through the field. 

The last Kaulig driver who seemed to have avoided issues was Daniel Hemric, who was bitten with nine laps to go. Like multiple other drivers, Hemric also had an issue with the track bar, forcing him behind the wall and tightening his points cushion over the cut line as well. 

In the closing laps, pit stop strategy intensified with some drivers attempting to stretch their fuel while others, including Gibbs, pitted. However, Parker Retzlaff spun in turn 6 and got stuck in the gravel with seven laps remaining, bringing out the caution.

During the final pit stops, Mayer and Allgaier stayed out along with Gibbs, propelling them to the front. On the restart, Gibbs took the JR Motorsports duo three-wide, charging to the lead. The field went into chaos, knocking each other around and multiple drivers going off course. 

It came to a head in the Carousel, as Allgaier was clipped by Custer, sending him around and collecting Bowman, Grala, and Brandon Jones. 

The caution would set up the wild overtime restart that saw both Gibbs and Hill get turned. Despite slipping to third after the melee, Berry also went for a spin in The Carousel after hitting some fluid.

Once Creed missed turn 7, it was the door that Mayer needed open to slip through and grab the victory.

Gibbs would go on to finish 17th.

With three races remaining in the regular season, Kligerman sits just three points behind Riley Herbst for the final playoff spot. Creed sits 22 points ahead, while Hemric’s advantage was shortened to 28 points to the good.

The series heads to Daytona International Speedway on Friday, Aug. 25, with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET on the USA Network.

About the author

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

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There are days when you’re pleased to see the dominant car take the checkered flag. Michael McDowell’s Cup victory last week was one of those. And there are days when you’re pleased to see the dominant car denied the win. This was one of those days, and Ty Gibbs has a lot to learn. Not only did he give a lot of guys a bunch of reasons for payback last season as well as a few extra this season, but he also reminded Sam Mayer that there was good reason to race Gibbs that way. With the 19 car as fast as it was, there was no good reason to clip the 1 car the way he did. If Mayer wanted to clear him out the first time when they were side by side, he would have. Gibbs was fast enough that he likely would have gotten away a couple of turns later if he kept things clean. But Gibbs seems to want to be the heel even when he doesn’t have to be. That’s fine, but then don’t be upset when people give it back to you when it’s your race to lose.


I must admit I quite liked seeing Gibbs knocked out of the way. And as an extra added bonus, JGR’s current full time Xfinity dirty driver JH Nemechek also had a rotten day.


Both these kids are fast but both have some learning to do.
We will see more of this if Sam gets a good cup ride. It probably won’t be with JRM. They just don’t like each other much that’s for sure

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