CONCORD, N.C. – With his back against the wall and a points deficit well below the playoff cut line, Sam Mayer pulled off a dominant win at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL to advance to the Round of 8.
Mayer’s win spiced up the battle to qualify for the Round of 8 on points, and at the end of Saturday’s (Oct. 7) 67-lap event, Sheldon Creed advanced by two points for the final spot. Daniel Hemric missed the cut by two points, Parker Kligerman missed by five and Josh Berry – who entered the day in a must-win situation – finished the race in third.
The ROVAL wasn’t the perfect race for Creed, but he was more than elated to advance.
“It’s the happiest I’ve ever been to run 10th,” Creed said. “Probably the hardest I’ve had to work for one.
“[…] I’m happy for the team — not so much myself, but I’m more happy for everyone that works on the thing and works in the shop. They put a lot of hours in to make it all happen, and to see us make the Round of 8 is a big deal for everyone.”
While he was excited to make the Round of 8, Creed also admitted that the team will have to be better in order to have a chance at making the Championship 4.
“I mean, we stumbled our way through this first round; we really didn’t do anything special,” Creed said. “We just stayed alive and finished all the races. Not going to stumble your way through the second round, we’re going to have to go and have good runs.”
Hemric had a strong run at the ROVAL, running up in the top five and bagging the most stage points on the day with 18. That ultimately wasn’t enough, as Hemric fell two spots and a fender short of advancing to the round of 8 after a three-wide battle to the line with Kligerman and Kaz Grala.
“With the No. 48, I saw the move he was going to put on the No. 26 there coming to the start/finish line, or coming to the entry of the chicane,” Hemric said post-race. “It played out almost like I wanted it to.”
Hemric would have ultimately gotten the tiebreaker over Creed, whose best result in this round was an eighth at Texas Motor Speedway compared to Hemric’s second at Bristol Motor Speedway. Hemric crashed out late in the race at Texas, which he made sure to note was the reason he did not advance.
“We didn’t lose it here today, we lost it at Texas,” he said.
There was question as to why Hemric didn’t use the bumper on either Kligerman or Grala in order to gain those final two spots he needed, but he was adamant about the fact that he did not want to race that way.
“I could’ve maybe been a little more aggressive with the No. 26 there and got him into the No. 48 but, like I said, I didn’t want to advance that way.”
Kligerman scored 15 stage points on the day and finished sixth, but with Mayer winning from below the cut, the points haul wasn’t enough for the Big Machine Racing No. 48 car to advance.
“We scored the second most points of anyone in the race by one point,” Kligerman said. “So you can’t do much more than that in a point situation. I felt like we had a top-three car. We just had to do the strategy we did where you really were in a position to try and get every point we could, and we did that.
“[…] I really, really, really am disappointed, not just for the chance to go race for a championship, but I have absolutely loved the experience of being in these playoffs and making it.”
Similar to Hemric’s wreck at Texas, Kligerman’s Round of 8 hopes were ultimately undone by a mechanical failure at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“I think Bristol would have easily been a top five if we don’t have that mechanical failure,” Kligerman said. “We would have been easy in, but they don’t hand out prizes for what could have been.”
With a must-win situation on the table, Berry’s day at the Charlotte ROVAL was filled with ups and downs, including power steering issues and a stage two spin. He came back to finish third, but the result was not enough to overcome two finishes outside of the top 25 at Bristol and Texas.
“We did a great job today,” Berry said. “We didn’t advance because we wrecked the last two weeks, not because of today.”
Berry first reported the power steering issues to the team early on during stage two, and he was running in the top three when the problem started to develop. It was shortly after that that Berry was sitting sideways in the middle of turns 3 and 4 following a spin.
“It was definitely an issue,” Berry said. “I had no power steering on the oval track and through a couple of the sections in the infield, with the compression basically had little to no power steering.”
Berry was asked if the spin was caused more by the power steering issue or by driver error.
“I think it was a little combination of the two,” he said. “I got a little far left to try to shape into turn 3 a little better and I couldn’t get it to turn and got a little high. […] I’m not gonna completely blame it on that, but I think it played a little bit of a part.”
The Xfinity Series’ Round of 8 will kick off at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 14, where the remaining eight drivers will have three races to punch their tickets into the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway.
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