Saturday December 2nd, 2023 10:17PM

Mayer punches Xfinity title ticket with Homestead win

By Holly Cain-NASCAR Wire Service

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Sam Mayer claimed his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series oval-race victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday after holding off Riley Herbst by a mere .227-second.

It marks Mayer’s fourth series victory of the season – and his career – and most importantly it punches his ticket into the Championship 4 finale that will decide the series title at Phoenix Raceway in two weeks.

Mayer’s No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet led 46 laps on the day – including the final 30 – but brushed the wall exiting turn 3 as he pushed forward on the last lap to keep a fast-closing Herbst behind him. Playoff contender John Hunter Nemechek finished third, leading seven laps despite feeling under the weather.

Winston, Georgia’s Austin Hill was fourth and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished fifth in his second and final race start of the season. He’s also the owner of Mayer’s Chevy.

“It’s unreal, we won on an oval,” Mayer said. “This Chevrolet Camaro was so good.”

“It’s all about putting a full race together,” he continued, “and I’m so proud of these guys. They kicked tail on pit road and we made it happen with these HMS (Hendrick Motorsports) engines.

“It’s just really cool to be able to beat an amazing organization like that (Herbst’s Stewart-Haas Racing team). We’ve got to turn it on a little harder going into Phoenix.”

Herbst’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Cole Custer won Stage 1 and led a dominating 114 of the race’s 200 laps only to suffer a tire problem with 50 laps remaining and drop a lap down. He rallied back but still finished 13th. Custer and Hill are now tied three points above the cutoff line heading into next week’s regular season finale at the half-mile Martinsville Speedway. Nemechek holds a healthy 44 point edge above them.

Another title favorite, Justin Allgaier – who came into the race ranked second in the championship standings – also had a tire issue after a pit stop and dropped back midway through the race. He rallied back to finish 15th, but dropped to fifth place in the standing, three points behind Hill for the automatic transfer position for the Championship 4.

Sammy Smith, who finished ninth, is now 49 points back in sixth place. And it was a more dramatic day for the other championship contenders with Sheldon Creed finishing 26th after exiting onto pit road with smoke trailing out of his Chevy with only two laps remaining in the race.

Talking Rock, Georgia’s Chandler Smith rounds out the Playoff 8 – but finished a frustrating 34th place after being collected in an early race accident. They are now 54 (Smith) and 65 (Creed) points below the fourth place transfer line and will need to win the race at Martinsville next week to meet their Playoff goals.

Daniel Hemric, Parker Kligerman, Atlanta, Georgia’s Brandon Jones, Sammy Smith, and Joe Graf, Jr. rounded out the top 10.

Earnhardt’s fifth-place effort was his fifth top five showing since he retired from fulltime competition in the NASCAR Cup Series after the 2017 season. He methodically worked his way forward from a 23rd place starting position and survived a close call in the closing laps, ironically with Josh Berry, who drives for Earnhardt.

“Luckily it didn’t hurt our car and we were able to finish really good, so I’m happy about that,” Earnhardt said, noting he felt badly having an incident with one of his own team cars.

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Homestead-Miami Speedway – Homestead, FL
Contender Boats 300 – October 21, 2023

1. (13) Sam Mayer (P), Chevrolet, 200.
2. (7) Riley Herbst, Ford, 200.
3. (2) John Hunter Nemechek (P), Toyota, 200.
4. (4) Austin Hill (P), Chevrolet, 200.
5. (23) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chevrolet, 200.
6. (15) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 200.
7. (10) Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 200.
8. (17) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 200.
9. (5) Sammy Smith # (P), Toyota, 200.
10. (11) Joe Graf, Jr., Toyota, 200.
11. (20) Derek Kraus, Chevrolet, 200.
12. (16) Parker Retzlaff #, Chevrolet, 200.
13. (1) Cole Custer (P), Ford, 199.
14. (14) Ryan Sieg, Ford, 199.
15. (3) Justin Allgaier (P), Chevrolet, 199.
16. (18) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 199.
17. (26) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 199.
18. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 199.
19. (29) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 199.
20. (28) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 199.
21. (22) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 199.
22. (25) Kyle Sieg, Ford, 199.
23. (27) Leland Honeyman, Chevrolet, 199.
24. (37) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 199.
25. (36) Patrick Emerling, Chevrolet, 198.
26. (9) Sheldon Creed (P), Chevrolet, 198.
27. (35) Mason Massey, Ford, 198.
28. (31) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 197.
29. (34) Blaine Perkins #, Chevrolet, 196.
30. (19) Kaz Grala, Toyota, 194.
31. (21) Connor Mosack, Toyota, Electrical, 190.
32. (8) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, Accident, 171.
33. (30) Mason Maggio(i), Ford, Electrical, 153.
34. (12) Chandler Smith # (P), Chevrolet, Engine, 138.
35. (6) Brett Moffitt, Ford, Accident, 97.
36. (32) Dawson Cram, Chevrolet, Accident, 65.
37. (38) C.J. McLaughlin, Ford, Carburetor, 37.
38. (24) Ryan Newman, Ford, Rear Gear, 27.

Average Speed: 116.517 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 34 Mins, 29 Secs. Margin of Victory: .227 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 33 laps.

Lead Changes: 13 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C. Custer (P) 1-52;S. Mayer (P) 53;C. Custer (P) 54-71;J. Nemechek (P) 72-77;D. Kraus 78-92;J. Nemechek (P) 93;C. Custer (P) 94-102;J. Allgaier (P) 103-110;C. Custer (P) 111-140;D. Kraus 141-146;C. Custer (P) 147-151;S. Mayer (P) 152-165;S. Creed (P) 166-169;S. Mayer (P) 170-200.

Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) Cole Custer (P) 5 times for 114 laps; Sam Mayer (P) 3 times for 46 laps; Derek Kraus 2 times for 21 laps; Justin Allgaier (P) 1 time for 8 laps; John Hunter Nemechek (P) 2 times for 7 laps; Sheldon Creed (P) 1 time for 4 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 00,1,20,2,25,7,98,21,26,10

Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,20,00,1,7,48,38,98,21,10

Playoff Standings: 1. Sam Mayer* – 3111 (4 Wins); 2. John Hunter Nemechek – 3154 (7 Wins); 3. Cole Custer – 3113 (2 Wins); 4. Austin Hill – 3113 (4 Wins); 5. Justin Allgaier – 3110 (3 Wins); 6. Sammy Smith – 3064 (1 Win); 7. Chandler Smith – 3059 (1 Win); 8. Sheldon Creed – 3048.

*Locked Into The Championship 4

(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series

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