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Mayer saves NASCAR season with Xfinity Series playoff win at Charlotte

Sam Mayer Sam Mayer - Getty Images

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Sam Mayer rallied from the verge of elimination into the next round of the Xfinity Series playoffs with a season-defining win Saturday on The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

It was the third career win for the 20-year-old driver for JR Motorsports, who was ranked 12th and last in the standings as four drivers vied for the five open slots in the round of eight of the playoffs for NASCAR's second-tier series. All three of Mayer's wins this season are on road courses.

“Our car was so fast, it really felt unbeatable,” Mayer said. “We kicked their tails today and it just feels so great. Winning solves everything, that's the name of the game. This is our second-chance moment, I think we can make something out of this.”

Mayer called it the biggest win of his career. He led a race-high 51 of the 67 laps in his Chevrolet.

Justin Allgaier, John Hunter Nemechek and Cole Custer had already locked themselves in to the round of eight before the race on Charlotte's hybrid road course/oval. The remaining five spots were essentially up for grabs and Mayer dominated the race.

A late caution caused him to concede the lead for a pit stop that put Mayer fourth on the restart. Allgaier and Jeb Burton did not pit and restarted as the leaders, but crashed each other headed into the first turn. It brought out another caution and Mayer had to chase down Custer with five laps remaining to maintain his title chances.

Daniel Hemric, Parker Kligerman, Josh Berry and Burton were eliminated from the playoffs. Hemric was the reigning Xfinity Series champion and was in a three-wide race to the finish line as he tried to squeeze the extra points needed to avoid elimination.

Hemric finished seventh overall, and third in that race with Kligerman and Kaz Grala.

“I was in the best position I could be, just came up a little short,” Hemric said. “Before the day started I said ‘Be humble in victory and gracious in defeat’ and we were defeated in this round. That's the way it goes.”

Mayer is the first new Xfinity Series winner in five years at The Roval. Chase Briscoe won the inaugural race on the 2.32-mile road course in 2018, then AJ Allmendinger won the next four. Briscoe and Allmendinger are running the Cup race on Sunday, and neither is in playoff contention.


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