The NASCAR Xfinity Series has a new road course ace.
“We may be Allmendinger 2.0,” Sam Mayer quipped after winning Saturday‘s Drive for the Cure 250 presented by BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course and clinching a spot in the Round of 8 in the series Playoffs.
The reference was to AJ Allmendinger, winner of the previous four Xfinity races at the 2.32-mile, 17-turn circuit. With Allmendinger ineligible for the race as a full-time NASCAR Cup driver this year, Mayer took over and got the win he needed to advance in the Playoffs.
Mayer earned the final spot in the Round of 8 at the expense of seventh-place finisher Daniel Hemric, who ran third in a three-way drag race to the finish line with Parker Kligerman and Kaz Grala—when a fifth-place result would have been enough to survive the round.
“They came out in the bottom of the seventh and hit a home run,” said Hemric, who finished second in each of the first two stages and was bounced from the postseason only because Mayer won from last place in the Xfinity Playoff standings.
Lining up second next to Cole Custer for a restart on Lap 63 of 67, Mayer muscled his way past Custer‘s No. 00 Ford through Turns 3 and 4 a lap later and pulled away to win by .909 seconds.
“I knew we had time,” said Mayer, who led five times for 50 laps. “Our car was so fast—it really felt unbeatable… We kicked their tails today, and it just feels so great.”
The victory was the third for the 20-year-old driver of the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet—all this year and all on road courses.
“This is our second-chance moment,” Mayer said. “I think we can make something out of it… We can go on and do great things because of this win.”
Kligerman, Josh Berry and Jeb Burton joined Hemric on the Playoff sidelines. Kligerman missed out by five points after coming home sixth.
Berry finished third despite battling issues with his power steering but fell short in a must-win situation, as did Burton, who stayed out on old tires for a restart on Lap 60 and crashed into Justin Allgaier‘s Chevrolet in Turn 1.
Sheldon Creed, on the other hand, squeaked into the Round of 8 by two points over Hemric after running 10th on Saturday.
“We had no front turn,” Creed said. “I was talking to our teammate Austin (Hill) about it. Both of our cars did not turn all day… I had to work for that one. I did not think we would be in by two—I thought we would be better than that.”
After the Lap 63 restart, Hemric‘s fate was in the hands of Custer, who couldn‘t keep Mayer behind him.
“We struggled on the short run, for sure,” Custer said. “It‘s frustrating. There are definitely things on the replay I could have done different, but our guys did a great job all day, getting our car to where we could compete for a win—but we just needed a little more.”
Riley Herbst ran fourth, with Kaz Grala fifth. Kligerman, Hemric, Stage 2 winner John Hunter Nemechek, Hill and Creed completed the top 10.
— NASCAR Wire Service —
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