KANSAS CITY, Kan. – A ninth place finish at Kansas Speedway accumulated enough points for Sam Mayer to lock himself into the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
When NASCAR called the Kansas Lottery 300 XX LAPS short due to weather, Mayer can now focus on new things with his No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.
“The last four or five races,” said Mayer, “I’ve been looking forward to that Playoff start because the points reset, just going back to good hard racing like at the beginning of the year. Having that points difference being a lot less than what it is will just be a confidence booster. The points are going to be less than a race difference, so just going out there and getting stage points is going to be big.”
His consistency has fluctuated all season. Despite finishing half of the races in the top 10, he also follows that statistic with four DNFs in 2022. Mayer said that the lack of consistency is solely on him.
“I think it’s just mental,” Mayer explained. “My mentality has kind of been down lately because I haven’t had much to drive for lately, because we’ve only been racing the 98 for that one spot in the Playoffs, other than a win. But now that we have something to race for, I think it will help us out a lot as a team.”
And the confidence booster is indeed a big reset for the Wisconsin native. A third of the races have shown the No. 1 machine in the top five when the checkered flag waved. As the fourth JR Motorsports entry to lock into the Playoffs, he knows how big of a feat that is, especially for a rookie like himself.
“First full-time year, making the Playoffs is a big deal,” he stated. “Not a lot of people can say that. I’m one of the few people that are going to the Playoffs; there are only 12 of us.
“(The Playoffs) can go in so many different ways. I think the way the points roll out, we’re probably going to have to win in the Round of 8. But we saw last year that anything can happen.”
When drivers make the Playoffs for the first time, they usually lean on teammates for advice. For Mayer, he has that surrounding him. Josh Berry holds loads of experience from the CARS Tour, and Justin Allgaier has driven just about every car in the garage in his 13 years across the Xfinity series. With Noah Gragson winning his fifth race of the season at Kansas, he was first to come to mind for Mayer, considering Gragson’s move to Cup next year with Petty GMS.
“I haven’t gotten to that point yet,” said Mayer on looking to his teammates for advice. “I think now that I’m clinched in, that conversation is going to happen. Noah has five wins this year, absolutely unreal, and with that Cup ride next year, I’m going to lean on him a bit more.”
“At the end of the day, I think we need to win two races this year: one in the Round of 8 and Phoenix.”
Now that chasing the horizon is done, Mayer knows the task at hand.
“I feel like I’ve had the wins coming, just haven’t gotten it yet.”