FRANKLIN, Wis. – Midway through the 2019 season, Sam Mayer was largely considered an anomaly in the NASCAR world, mainly due to how quickly he came into stock cars and found success.
After this year’s dominant campaign, however, there’s no denying that Mayer is a force behind the wheel who isn’t going away anytime soon.
The 17-year-old will officially put the ARCA Menards Series East title on lockdown when he takes the green flag for this weekend’s Pensacola 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., which was pushed to Sunday due to the effects of Hurricane Delta.
Mayer has an unassailable 26-point margin over rival Ty Gibbs entering the 200-lap event.
It will be Mayer’s second straight East Series championship following his 2019 championship in what was then known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, and his first under Automobile Racing Club of America sanctioning.
Oddly enough, it’s also the second year in a row where Mayer has clinched the title, in essence, a race early. All he had to do last fall at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway was start the season finale to seal the deal as well.
Mayer went on win that Dover race, and he’ll be looking to do the same Sunday at Five Flags.
It’s a position that carries an air of relaxation with it, considering there’s no points implications attached going into Pensacola, and Mayer is relishing that feeling as he prepares to close out the East season with his No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet team.
“Any chance where you can go out knowing that you’re going to end up on top, no matter what happens, is something that is really special and doesn’t happen often,” Mayer told SPEED SPORT in an exclusive interview this week. “It actually happened last year with us at Dover. And we ended up winning the race because we were so relaxed. I think having less pressure actually makes our team better. It’s going to be a heck of a race this weekend. There’s probably going to be four or five cars battling for the win nose to tail, the whole race.
“I’m excited for it. I know Mardy (Lindley, crew chief) going to have us fast and I know that I’m good at Pensacola,” Mayer added. “We probably would have won last year, but we had a motor problem. So I know we’re fast. We just have to go out there and do our best to win and end on a high note.”
The fact that Mayer is leading the points coming down the home stretch isn’t necessarily a surprise, considering he won the season-opening races for both the ARCA Menards Series East and West divisions prior to the sports shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March.
But the fact that he’s won eight times in 2020 across the ARCA East, ARCA West and national ARCA Menards Series tours was less expected – at least to everyone outside of Mayer and his team.
“When we were walking into this year, before any racing started … before we even went to New Smyrna, we were talking to different spotters trying to get one that we could have full time for the whole year. That never really happened – we had Derek Kneeland and Lorin Ranier fill in the gaps with each other – but (a win total) actually came up in a conversation with Branden Lines,” Mayer recalled. “He was like, ‘How many wins do you expect to get this year?’
“He actually straight up said, ‘What are you thinking, like 10 wins this year?’ And, if you count our Truck Series win (at Bristol Motor Speedway), we’re sitting on nine right now,” Mayer noted. “A win at Pensacola would be 10. So as it turns out, that goal wasn’t too far-fetched and we kind of agreed with it. Ten wins was something we were shooting for, and we’re pretty close to on track to getting that.
“We just go out and do our thing each week, and hopefully the wins keep coming with it.”
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