JR Motorsports driver Sam Mayer survived a full-contact afternoon at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International – contributing his own bump and run on the final restart to take the lead in overtime and hold off the field for his second career NASCAR Xfinity Series win Saturday in the Shriners Children’s 200 at The Glen.
Mayer’s No. 1 JRM Chevrolet tagged the back of the day’s most dominant driver and then-race leader Ty Gibbs, spinning Gibbs’ No. 19 Toyota which then collected a handful of other lead pack cars. The 21-year old Wisconsin-native Mayer was able to pull away from the mayhem behind and raced off to a .909-second victory over Richard Childress Racing’s Sheldon Creed.
Gibbs, who races full time as a rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series, led a race high 70 of the 86 laps and won both Stage 1 and Stage 2 on the 3.45-mile, 11-turn historic road course in upstate New York. But it was Mayer using that aggressive move forward, that hoisted the trophy.
“On that first one, I got used up, thought I had a good one there’’ Mayer said of the two overtime restarts. “All glory to God for this one because we had to work our tails off for it.
“I wheel-hopped it, that’s unfortunate and I feel bad for doing that, obviously you don’t want to take out any car like that’’ Mayer added. “Just trying to get another win in the Xfinity Series. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I was in there, I put my nose in there and that’s part of it.
“That’s an accident, but I think everyone can agree it’s okay for an Xfinity Series regular to win this race.’’
There is history between the two young drivers, Mayer and the 2022 Xfinity Series champion Gibbs. There was even a physical confrontation between the two after a race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last year.
Gibbs, 20, none too surprisingly, didn’t take kindly to the race ending. He was credited with 17th place on the day.
“I think when you have to race out of desperation like that and you wheel-hop and take the leader out, I guess you can call it a racing incident but it just really sucks,’’ Gibbs said. “We had a really fast Toyota Supra and I really appreciate all the team’s hard work. We had a really good time out there and wish that caution didn’t come. Definitely sucks to get cleaned out there.
“It’s a part of life and a part of racing and you just get over it and when stuff like that happens, desperate moves like that happen, it’s just part of it and you try to keep going. We were really fast.
“I don’t know really know how much of a conversation you can really have with him in that situation,’’ Gibbs said when asked if wanted to have words with Mayer.
“We kind of grew up racing around each other and I think he has more starts than I do and this is his second win so congratulations to him on his second win. Definitely wish I could have gotten my 13th there.’’
Parker Kligerman came through the wreck to finish third in the No. 48 Big Machine Racing Chevrolet, followed by NASCAR Cup Series regular Ross Chastain in the No. 91 DGM Chevrolet and Connor Mosack in the No. 24 Sam Hunt Racing Toyota.
Kligerman’s third-place showing was important as the series heads towards its Playoffs next month. He pulled to within three-points of Riley Herbst for that final transfer position. Herbst’s No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford had a rough day, retiring on Lap 37 and taking a 35th place finish. He had led Kligerman by 17 points coming into the Watkins Glen race.
“We had a great finish and salvaged great points,’’ Kligerman said. “We kept ourselves in the fight, but I’ve got to sort through this one.
“To me, three [points], 15 [points], it all feels the same. It’s so close that can happen in a stage essentially. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. We scored stage points in all stages today so that is a big deal for us.’’
“I think we’re doing the right things, just need a little more,’’ he added with a smile.
Herbst was frustrated, but said he was optimistic about upcoming races – at Daytona Beach, Darlington, S.C. and Kansas to set the 12-driver Playoff field.
“I don’t think we should be in this situation as it is, it’s just frustrating,’’ Herbst said. “We have some good tracks for us and good tracks for Stewart-Haas Racing, I’m excited. It’s just frustrating that things like this beyond our control keep happening, but it’ll turn around one day and when it does we’ll be happy.”
John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer, Chandler Smith, Alex Bowman and Jeb Burton rounded out the top 10. Austin Hill, who was among those collected in the overtime re-start finished 14th and now holds a nine-point advantage over Nemechek atop the championship standings.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series moves to Daytona International Speedway next week for Friday’s Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola (7:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Jeremy Clements is the defending race winner. Hill won at Daytona in February.
— NASCAR Wire Service —
View more on the Watkins Glen Race Page.