Race 26 of 33: Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 0.533-mile oval / 300 laps
Race Winner: Noah Gragson
Mayer’s finish: 4th
Points position: 9th (-46)
Sam Mayer wrapped up the regular season of NASCAR Xfinity Series competition in fine fashion with a fourth-place effort in Friday night’s Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway. For much of the race Mayer looked to be on rails with the Huck’s Market Chevrolet until a mishap with lap traffic resulted in a spin for the No. 1 machine. Even with the setback, Mayer was able to race his way back inside the top four before the checkered flag fell.
Mayer enters the Round of 12 in the NXS Playoffs as the ninth seed (although tied with eighth in points) in the driver championship while the No. 1 team kicks off the playoffs for the owner’s championship in 10th (in a three-way tie on points). Both driver and team qualified on the strength of nine top-five and 14 top-10 finishes during the 26-race regular season.
Firing off in fifth for the 300-lap event, Mayer’s initial feedback was that the No. 1 was “pretty free” following a pair of early cautions.
As the field settled in, so did the handling of the Huck’s Market Chevrolet. Mayer reported a good balance that saw him jump up the charts to fourth where he finished out Stage One.
During the stage-ending caution, Mayer told the team that the car was “super solid” and minimal changes were needed during their first pit stop.
Mayer lined up for Stage Two in seventh after a few competitors elected to stay out and not pit. But it seemed not to matter, as the No. 1 shot up three spots to fourth on the opening lap of the stage.
He kept riding the wave forward, finding the second spot by lap 160 and doing his best to manage an abundance of lap traffic. His effort came to a head when he caught two lap-down machines and the trio was forced into a dicey three-wide situation. Mayer made slight contact with another car and spun out as a result. The ensuing caution brought an end to Stage Two, and Mayer fell to ninth in the running order.
Mayer pitted with the rest of the field and took the green flag for the final stage in 12th. The Huck’s Market team proceeded to put on a passing clinic as the laps clicked off with Mayer posting some of the fastest times on the track.
The field was slowed only by one more caution but by then Mayer had staked his claim in the top 10 and was looking for more. With the laps winding down, he snagged fourth by the race’s end.
Sam Mayer, driver No. 1 Huck’s Market Chevrolet team
“We had such a solid Huck’s Market Chevrolet. It felt great to be one of the fastest cars on the track tonight. Hats off to Taylor (Moyer) and this entire No. 1 team for bringing such a piece to the racetrack. I was able to do some things out there that our competitors couldn’t and that was from the amount of speed we had. The lap cars are what did us in. I need to get better at managing that. It really bit us tonight. We ran well but the outcome could have been much better without that setback.
“We worked long and hard all year for a shot at the playoffs, so it’s somewhat rewarding to have made it in. But now the intensity is going to ramp up and we need to really be on our game over these next three races.”