BRISTOL, Tenn. – It took just three corners in Thursday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway for the budding dispute between Sam Mayer and Chase Cabre to fully boil over.
After run-ins going as far back as Memphis (Tenn.) Int’l Raceway in June, the Bush’s Beans 150 represented the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for the two leading K&N East title contenders.
Starting alongside one another in the front row, Cabre jumped out to the race lead in the first half-lap of the concrete high banks, but entering turn three for the first time, things got wild.
Mayer dove down to the bottom lane in the corner, getting to Cabre’s left-rear quarter panel and sending him spinning into the outside wall. Cabre made contact, while Mayer drove away unscathed.
The 16-year-old went on to win the race, rallying back from being put to the rear of the field and ultimately passing Spencer Davis for the victory with 13 laps left, while Cabre battled back pain and an ill-handling race car en route to an eighth-place finish.
Mayer later recalled the move that turned his race on its head before it really had a chance to get going.
“I tried to get in there and move him out of the way, but I just got in there too hard. He kind of deserved it for how he’s been racing me this year, but I didn’t want to do it like that,” said Mayer. “It happened, though, and luckily our team was still able to fight back for a win … but that’s not how I wanted to do it.”
NASCAR officials viewed the incident between Mayer and Cabre as “rough driving” on Mayer’s part, leading to the black flag that was assessed to the GMS Racing young gun, but it didn’t stop him from fighting back and leaving with the winner’s trophy.
Mayer did admit, however, that he understood and respected NASCAR’s decision to penalize him.
“It’s all in NASCAR’s judgement, but I mean … I did flat-out dump him,” Mayer noted. “I didn’t mean it, at all, but I did get in there way too hard and get into him, so I understand (why I got the penalty).”
Though Cabre fought through the back pain he was experiencing in the latter stages of the race and did finish all 150 laps, he had to be helped from his car by the AMR Safety Team and was later taken to a local hospital for observation after a visit to the Bristol infield medical center. Cabre was cleared and released from medical care Thursday night.
Prior to the race, Cabre made the comment that “rubbing is racing,” referencing that he and Mayer swapped paint at Watkins Glen Int’l at the beginning of the month.
Friday morning, in the wake of the events that went down at Bristol, Cabre was much more animated.
“I think it’s pretty clear (that) I got cleaned out on lap one,” said Cabre. “It’s sickening to see the way Sam races, but that’ll happen when you have someone driving that doesn’t know what (a) nine-sixteenths- wrench is and will rely on dad’s money. Money doesn’t buy respect, or talent.
“And then to have the audacity to say, ‘Yeah, he deserved it,’ as I was being transported to the ambulance … he’s got a lot to learn if he wants to make it in this sport.”
Asked if Thursday’s events represented the birth of a full-on rivalry between he and Cabre, Mayer was candid in his response, at the time not knowing that Cabre had been transported to the hospital.
“I don’t want it to be,” Mayer said, almost a sheepish note in his voice. “He just keeps racing me like … a you-know-what. I can’t say the word that describes him in here (the media center), but he definitely does not race me clean and I have not appreciated that all year long. It started at Memphis, all the way back there, but I just waited until it really mattered … and unfortunately, I did it big.
“I wouldn’t want to call it a rivalry, but it’s something.”
Mayer leaves Bristol leading Cabre by 22 points in the updated K&N East standings, and the two will take their ongoing feud to Gateway Motorsports Park on Aug. 24, for the second of two combination events with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
What remains to be seen is just what Thursday’s events may lead to down the home stretch.