By David Morgan, Associate Editor
TALLADEGA, Ala. – So close, but so far.
Sam Mayer held the lead in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Talladega when the field took the white flag, but by the time they made the final 2.66-mile circuit, it would be veteran AJ Allmendinger who cross the line in first place, beating the JR Motorsports driver to the finish by 0.015-seconds to steal the win away.
Starting the day in 13th place, Mayer climbed into the top-10, where he would stay for both the first and second stage, biding his time before taking over the lead for the first time on lap 109 and again just prior to the white flag.
Holding onto the point all the way until the field reached the tri-oval for the final time, Mayer pulled out to a sizeable lead over the other leaders, which ultimately was his downfall.
As he inched up the track to block the advance of Ryan Sieg, Allmendinger had a massive run courtesy of his Kaulig Racing teammate Landon Cassill. Mayer was able to jump back down in front of Allmendinger, but the wily veteran pulled the cross-over move on him, swinging around the high side of Mayer and beating him back to the line by the slimmest of margins.
Afterwards, Mayer was disappointed that it wasn’t his No. 1 Chevrolet in Victory Lane, but chalked the day up to a learning experience to keep in the memory bank for the next time the Xfinity Series returns to a superspeedway.
“I had a lot of confidence going into today that our cars were going to be fast. Our Chevrolet Camaros always are when we come to the superspeedways and today was no different. Obviously, we were leading at the white flag. Proud of my guys. They kicked ass today. Did everything right with pit strategy wise and everything else, but three feet short, you can’t do anything.
“Overall, it was a big learning day for me. This was my first time doing anything like this – making it to the checkered flag at a superspeedway in a spot like that. Obviously, there’s a lot more days ahead for me. Especially days like today, so I’m looking forward to those days and doing something different.”
Mayer now heads to the final race of the Round of 12, the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, where he finished in the top-10 last season. Currently, Mayer sits seventh in points, with a 13-point advantage over the cut-off line.
“It’s one of those tracks where you just have to survive. Having a good points day here and putting us in at least a positive spot, I think we’re going to be good. I have a lot of confidence at that track anyway. That was one of the tracks I performed really well at last year when I ran the 8 car, so I expect no different this year.
“We were up front. I was in second at the white flag at the ROVAL last year. Hopefully we’re at least close and we can point our way in or maybe win the thing.”