Race Weekend Central

Xfinity Breakdown: Sam Mayer Gets Revenge, Playoff Battle Tightens at The Glen

For much of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday afternoon (Aug. 19), Ty Gibbs had the field covered. The grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs joined Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch and Ross Chastain in coming down from the NASCAR Cup Series to go for the win.

Gibbs stunk up the show until the race turned into a fuel mileage strategy affair as laps clicked off under green in the final stage. Late cautions jumbled up the running order with drivers on different fuel and tire strategies.

On what would’ve been the final restart, Sam Mayer hung with Gibbs coming out of the esses, until Gibbs ran him into the wall. On the same lap, a spin by Justin Allgaier led to an overtime restart where Gibbs shared the front row with fresher tires on the car driven by series points leader Austin Hill. Mayer restarted from third directly behind Gibbs.

See also
Contact Between Sam Mayer, Ty Gibbs, Decides Shriners Children's 200 at the Glen

Gibbs got a predictably great restart, but going into turn 1, Mayer went in deep and wheel-hopped, spinning Gibbs in the process. Sheldon Creed emerged from the scene with the lead, chased by Mayer.

Through the carousel, Creed’s car got squirrely as he went through a presumptive mixture of speedy dry and oil still on the track from the prior wreck. Mayer reeled Creed in until getting past him in turn 7 coming to the white flag. The 20-year-old Wisconsin native never looked back, bringing home his second career Xfinity Series victory.

Creed finished second, followed by his fellow playoff bubble competitor Parker Kligerman in third. Chastain and Connor Mosack rounded out the top five. John Hunter Nemechek mounted an unbelievable comeback to finish sixth. Cole Custer, Chandler Smith, Bowman and Jeb Burton completed the top 10.

Winners

Mayer’s history with Gibbs has been well-documented. The two young drivers traded paint and more throughout their teen years coming up through the ranks. The rivalry boiled over last year at Martinsville Speedway when the two tangled on track going for a win. After a heated argument and a couple of shoves, Gibbs (still wearing his helmet while Mayer was not) connected on two punches to Mayer’s face.

The incident seemed to send Mayer into a more timid attitude. But three weeks ago at Road America, Mayer got his first career win. He followed that up with a fifth at Michigan International Speedway. Last week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Mayer ran strong once again and finished second.

I listened to his radio for most of this race, and you can hear the confidence he is starting to develop. He was livid after Gibbs ran him into the wall, and after spinning Gibbs and beating Creed, he drew even with Custer in the win column. Only Hill and Nemechek have more wins on the season. Going back to Pocono Raceway where Mayer finished second, he’s now banked five straight top fives.

After the race, Mayer denied any intent of wrecking Gibbs. Instead, he chalked it up to a mistake on his part, with the wheel-hopping being the catalyst to Gibbs’ demise. His story was questionable and my gut tells me it was some media savvy at play. The confidence came through too.

Creed’s second-place finish should be a cause for celebration given his recent streak of poor results. Going all the way back to Darlington Raceway, where Creed was a trendy pick to win but finished 25th, he’s had an average finish of 17.6. After Darlington, Creed was seventh in points and seemed pretty comfortable to make it to the playoffs.

Still winless, Creed exits Watkins Glen just 22 points above the cut line even with his second-place finish. With Kligerman and Riley Herbst within striking distance, he is in range of another playoff miss. Something tells me he’ll be replaying the carousel through turn 7 in his head for weeks to come.

Kligerman played the major buzzkill role for Creed. As Creed rose up the scoring pylon, so did Kligerman. In the end, Creed did gain five points on Kligerman by way of finishing one spot ahead of him and beating him in both stages.

The third-place finish for Kligerman was still a major win, because the third part of the playoff bubble trio, Herbst, finished 35th. Kligerman moves on to Daytona International Speedway just 22 points behind Creed and three behind Herbst for the final playoff position.

Mosack had an eventful race, going off course early in the going. He stayed in the gas and prevented getting stuck in the gravel. He was able to rally and benefit from fresher tires than most on the final restart. When the checkered flag flew, Mosack crossed the line in fifth, his first career top five.

Nemechek finishing sixth usually wouldn’t warrant a mention in the “winners” section. With five wins under his belt and constant rumors of a Cup ride next season, he’s expected to be contending for wins each week.

But this was no ordinary sixth-place finish. On the race’s final caution, Nemechek was black-flagged by NASCAR and required to pit for repairs. His driver-side panel was peeled back like a can of corned beef hash. Nemechek went on an epic tear on the race’s final two laps, dodging the melee and tearing through the field from 21st to sixth.

After the race, he told us about it.

Custer’s top 10 was another good comeback, as he spun early in turn 1 with Alex Bowman, then went off track again the following lap.

Burton quietly managed to bring home his fifth top 10 of the season. Despite a middling season, Burton is safely in the playoffs thanks to his win at Talladega Superspeedway in April.

See also
Small Xfinity Teams Share Successes at Watkins Glen: 'We Won Today'

Give a call to Brennan Poole, too. Poole went for a spin coming out of the bus stop early in the race but stayed out of trouble the rest of the way. The unsponsored entry from JD Motorsports came home 12th.

Losers

Gibbs has proven himself to be a very talented driver, worthy of a great ride at the highest level of NASCAR. On his way to the top, he certainly ruffled a lot of feathers. Mayer is the most pertinent example today, but you may recall incidents with then-teammates Brandon Jones and Nemechek. There was the reckless dumping of Ryan Sieg, and several more.

Today he raced Mayer very aggressively, running him into the wall. It was an aggressive yet understandable move. But Gibbs lacked in the karma bank, and nobody is feeling bad for him with his 17th-place finish today despite leading 70 of 86 laps.

After the race, Gibbs mostly kept his composure but took a couple of pop-shots at his rival Mayer.

“We’ve been kinda grew up racing around each other, he has more starts than I do, and you know its his second win. So congrats to him on his second win, definitely wish I could’ve gotten my 13th there.”

Herbst was the biggest loser today. After being as high as second in the points earlier this season, he needed a good finish today. Instead, he dealt with transmission issues, and a suspension failure led to being out of the race early. He grabbed three stage points in the first stage, but the 35th-place finish leaves him in grave danger of missing the playoffs. With three races to go, he holds the final playoff spot over Kligerman by just three points.

Daniel Hemric had a strong qualifying run. He started sixth but started fading immediately. He failed to score any stage points and finished 23rd after spending some time behind the wall while his team fixed a suspension issue.

Previously viewed as safely in the playoffs, Hemric has now slipped to just 28 points above the cut line.

Perhaps the most bizarre moment came courtesy of Josh Williams. It may not have been quite as bizarre as the first Atlanta Motor Speedway race, where Williams parked his car at the finish line during the race and walked to pit road, but it was close.

As the field approached the choose line, Williams was struggling to get his headphones in. Driving distracted, he rear-ended Stefan Parsons. The No. 92’s radiator was destroyed in the crash, ending Williams’ day. The mullet-clad driver had to settle for 36th. After the race, he told our own Dalton Hopkins it was one of the dumbest things he’d ever done. Apparently for Williams, it was worse than Atlanta.

Scheme of the Week

Alpha Prime Racing team owner Tommy Joe Martins would probably tell you this season hasn’t lived up to his expectations. But the challenges on track have not deterred his team from routinely putting some of the best-looking cars on track. Sage Karam was in the No. 45 this week, and his ride carried the banner for the team in the results column and the looks department.

While teammates Parsons and Ryan Ellis both finished several laps down in the 30s, Karam finished with a very solid 15th. He did so behind the wheel of a scheme that kind of resembled a retro Kurt Busch Sharpie scheme. The main sponsors on Karam’s ride were Rich Mar Florist out of Pennsylvania and Lakewood Vineyards. The latter is a local producer of wine and mead just eight miles away from The Glen.

Fuel for Thought

With three races until the playoffs, we have three groups of drivers. First, we have the championship contenders. This group contains Hill, Nemechek, Custer, Allgaier, and now you can throw Mayer in too.

Then you have the ho-hum drivers who are in the playoffs but don’t appear poised to make a real run at a title. This group includes Sammy Smith, Chandler Smith, Burton and still winless Josh Berry.

Finally, you have the bubble drivers. Hemric (+28), Creed (+22), Herbst (+3), Kligerman (-3) and Jones (-61). It might be a stretch to include Jones in this group, but he is still driving a JR Motorsports car. You’ve got to expect that team will pull out all the stops over the next few weeks to get him a win. If I’m Dale Earnhardt Jr., I’m asking the team to line up behind him at Daytona and protect his place at the front of the field. Easier said than done though.

A lot can change in three races. Which bubble drivers are your picks to make the playoffs? Who will miss out?

Where to Next?

We’re headed to Daytona International Speedway for the Wawa 250 presented by Coca-Cola. Last season, this race turned into a demolition derby that saw Jeremy Clements edge Timmy Hill for the win. Just 15 cars finished on the lead lap in that race. The most recent Xfinity race at Daytona was won by Hill in the season opener.

Can Hill continue his drafting dominance once again? Will JR Motorsports find a way to get Jones a win? Can an underdog crash the playoff party? You won’t want to miss this one. There are about 10 full-time Xfinity drivers who will be looking at this race as their last chance to earn a playoff spot.

The action gets going on Friday, Aug. 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Follow along on USA Network or listen on the Motor Racing Network.

About the author

Steve Leffew joined Frontstretch in 2023, and covers the Xfinity Series. He resides in Wisconsin and has been a NASCAR fan as long as he can remember. He has served honorably in the United States Air Force and works during the week as a Real Estate Lender.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

5 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SB

Ty Gibbs reminds me of his teammate Denny Hamlin. When Denny spins out the leaser ‘going for the win’, it’s fair game. When HE gets spun out it’s dirty driving. Whining when the tables get turned is not a good look for the ‘pious’ Gibbs boy.

DoninAjax

Little Gibbs has the required attitude to drive for Reverend Joe. They can win with the bumper but if they lose with the bumper its dirty driving as if they never do that.

Ronald Thornton

How dare them gibbs boys act just like dale earnhardt and jeff gordon.

DoninAjax

The Wawa (from Ontario?) 250 is on Friday. The Cup event is Saturday.

Share via