Race 26 of 33: Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 0.533-mile oval/ 300 laps
Weather: Cloudy; 69 degrees
Race Winner: AJ Allmendinger
Mayer’s Finish: 9th
Sam Mayer and the No. 8 Tire Pros team put on a stellar showing in Friday night’s Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway, leading 49 laps and cementing themselves among the frontrunners in the final stage. Running second and attempting to run down leader Austin Cindric in the closing laps, Mayer received contact from teammate Justin Allgaier who was running in third. The resulting spin dropped Mayer out of contention for the win but the Wisconsin native rallied to a ninth-place finish, his third top 10 of the season.
With the Xfinity Series regular season now concluded, the No. 8 team will do battle for the owner’s title beginning next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Tire Pros team is seeded 10th out of the 12 playoff contenders.
Stage One Finish: 5th
Mayer began the race in 22nd and worked his way inside the top 15 with a Tire Pros Chevy that fired off “pretty good” but took on a predominant loose condition as the run went on. Mayer climbed to 11th with the No. 8 machine by the opening stage’s halfway mark and utilized a lap-52 restart to rocket inside the top 10. Mayer didn’t stop there, however, and sliced his way up to fifth for the conclusion of the stage.
Stage Two Finish: 11th
After pitting for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to help tighten up the handling, the No. 8 took off eighth for the start of Stage Two. Mayer settled in and produced a “good pace” with the Tire Pros Chevy. The youngster was patient, taking what the track and car would give him. He was scored in ninth when a caution waved on lap 155. Within their self-described fuel window, crew chief Taylor Moyer called Mayer to the pits for fresh rubber and adjustments. With other competitors staying out, this would drop the team to 18th for the ensuing restart. But it would be a strategic call because Mayer would cycle back to the front under the stage-ending caution with nearly fresh tires and track position. Once back to green, Mayer brought the No. 8 machine to the end of Stage Two in 11th.
Final Stage: Leveraging their pit strategy, the Tire Pros team remained on the track as the stage concluded and lined up for the restart in third. Mayer wasted little time jumping to the front under green-flag conditions, finding the lead on lap 181. He look poised out front and would lead the next 49 circuits until an errant lap car slowed him. It was enough that the second-place car of Austin Cindric managed to sneak by, but not before pushing Mayer and his No. 8 machine into the wall.
With what appeared to be only visible damage, Mayer hung on to the bumper of Cindric, making marginal gains in lap traffic only to give up his advances in cleaner air. But as the race wore on into the closing laps, the No. 7 of teammate Justin Allgaier began reeling Mayer in. The youngster was fending off Allgaier’s challenges with two laps remaining when another lap car held up Mayer enough for Allgaier to put a nose inside the No. 8’s quarter panel. The resulting contact spun Mayer off the front of the No. 7 machine and brought out a caution for an overtime finish. Mayer fell to 11th for the restart but pulled ahead two positions to take the checkered flag in ninth.
AJ Allmendinger won the race. He was followed to the line by Austin Cindric. Riley Herbst, Allgaier and Brandon Jones.
Sam Mayer, driver No. 8 Tire Pros Camaro
“We had a really good pace with our Tire Pros Chevy tonight. It was loose for most of the race but Taylor (Moyer, crew chief) and the guys did a nice job adjusting on it so it was more manageable. The goal tonight was patience and to let things come to us. We were able to work our way to the front with some strategy and lead a bunch of laps and that was a good learning experience for me.
“Obviously, I was frustrated that the 7 made contact with us. You know, we're buddies, we're teammates. Stuff happens, but that's tough and it still sucks...It's like man, can't catch a break. It's always something.”