Sam Mayer stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park, dominating the NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday (Oct. 7) at the Charlotte ROVAL to earn a walk-off win and secure his spot in the Round of 8.
Mayer, who entered the race in a must-win situation, won the pole for the Drive for the Cure 250 and dominated the opening stages. After a few late cautions, Mayer found himself in second. Mayer beat the back bumper of leader Cole Custer and made his way to the front, driving off into the sunset.
“I knew we had time,” Mayer said of the final restart. “Our car was so fast, it really felt unbeatable. We kicked their tails today. It feels so great… This is our second chance moment, I think we can make something out of it. “
Mayer led 50 laps en route to picking up his third win of the season, all at road courses. This is the first time since 2018 that a driver other than AJ Allmendinger won at the ROVAL, something Mayer joked about afterwards.
“We love road courses. I guess I’m AJ Allmendinger 2.0 or something.”
Justin Allgaier took the lead on the opening lap, but Mayer drove back around the No. 7 on lap 5. Mayer dominated the rest of the stage, but the return of stage breaks shook up the running order at the end of stage one.
Mayer, in a must-win situation, pitted to flip the stage. Allgaier decided to stay out and claim the extra playoff point by winning the first stage.
Mayer regained the lead and drove out to a large lead once again. Behind him, Berry, also in need of a win, spun in the infield and lost a chunk of his track position.
A great run for Alex Labbe ran into complications when the No. 91 smacked the outside wall out of the frontstretch chicane, dropping him out of his top five run. He would eventually finish 15th.
As he did in the opening stage, Mayer pitted again with other leaders. John Hunter Nemechek, who started shotgun on the field, stayed out to take the lead and the stage win. Just before the caution flew for the stage, INDYCAR driver Conor Daly had a flat tire and spun in the oval turn 4, bringing out the first caution of the day for incident.
The playoff intensity ramped up in the final stage. Kligerman and Daniel Hemric began making gains, driving through the field and closing on the cut. The two drivers ahead, Sammy Smith and Sheldon Creed, seemed stuck together further back as they slid into the danger zone.
The caution flew on lap 55 after a sign by the frontstretch chicane was hit, leaving water and debris on the track.
Jeb Burton and Allgaier took up the front row on the restart. Allgaier had pitted just ahead of the caution, but Burton’s team made the call to try and take the lead by staying out. As they dove into turn 1, Burton pushed his old tires too hard and slid into the corner, taking Allgaier with him. The Burton machine sandwiched Allgaier’s car into the wall, bringing out another caution.
Custer inherited the lead with the two leaders in the wall. He was able to stay in front of Mayer on the restart with five laps to go, but Mayer aggressively outdueled Custer to push back into the lead.
At the cut line, Kligerman could not create enough separation from Hemric to point his way in. When the checkered flag waved, Mayer’s win moved the cut to eliminate Hemric, Kligerman, Berry, and Burton. Hemric came up just short after an exciting final corner and photo finish.
With the points reset, the Xfinity Series will open their Round of 8 next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Alsco Uniforms 302 will run Oct. 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET on the USA Network.
About the author
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.