Sam Mayer beat Riley Herbst by just 0.227 seconds to win the Contender Boats 300 NASCAR Xfinity race, at the doubleheader at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday.
Sam Mayer won his first oval race of his career after edging Riley Herbst by just 0.227 seconds, marking the fourth NASCAR Xfinity series triumph for the JR Motorsports driver this year.
Mayer’s entry into the Championship 4 final, which will determine the series’ champion at Phoenix Raceway in two weeks, is what mattered most. He joked that he didn’t breathe during the race’s final four laps.
The No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet led 46 laps of the race, including the final 30 in the hands of Mayer. However, he hit the wall when he accelerated out of Turn 3 on the final lap to hold off Herbst, who was rapidly closing up on him.
John Hunter Nemechek, also contending for the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, finished third despite feeling unwell.
Austin Hill, who won the regular season, finished fourth in the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Fan favorite and member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth in his second and final start of the season.
Cole Custer, a teammate of Herbst at Stewart-Haas Racing won Stage 1 and led 114 of the 200 total laps of the race before experiencing a tyre issue with 50 laps to go and eventually got lapped. Despite his comeback, he still placed 13th following a strong start.
Custer and Hill are currently tied three points above the cutoff going into the following week at the Martinsville Speedway. Nemechek has a comfortable 44-point lead over the duo.
Justin Allgaier, another title favorite and teammate of Mayer at JRM, entered the race second in the standings but experienced a tyre failure following a pit stop and fell back halfway through the race.
After recovering to take 15th, he fell to fifth place overall, three points behind Hill for the automatic transfer spot for the Championship 4.
JGR’s Sammy Smith came in ninth and is currently in sixth place in the standings, 49 points adrift. The day was more eventful for the other title hopefuls, with Sheldon Creed of Richard Childress Racing finishing 26th after going onto pit road with smoke coming from his Chevy with only two laps left.
Chandler Smith of Kaulig Racing completes the Playoff 8 but came in a disappointing 34th after being involved in an early crash.
Smith and Creed need to win the race at Martinsville next week in order to meet their playoff targets because they are currently 54 and 65 points off the fourth place transfer line, respectively.
The top 10 on Saturday included Daniel Hemric of Kaulig, Parker Kligerman of Big Machine Racing, Brandon Jones of JRM, and Sammy Smith as well as Joe Graf Jr. of Joe Gibbs Racing.
Earnhardt’s appearance was undoubtedly widely recognized and his fifth-place finish in the JR Motorsports Chevrolet marked his fifth top-five finish since his retirement from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition after the 2017 campaign.
He patiently advanced from a starting position of 23rd and practically avoided a collision with Josh Berry, who ironically drives for Earnhardt, in the closing laps.
Next Saturday’s Dead On Tools 250 at Martinsville Raceway will officially determine which three drivers will join Mayer in championship eligibility at the Phoenix season finale.