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Sam Mayer Rockets to Exciting Road America Victory

Sam Mayer became Superman after Saturday’s Henry 180 at Road America. (Photo: Logan Skidan | The Podium Finish)

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Sometimes, it is not about how you start but how you finish as Sam Mayer can attest after Saturday’s Henry 180 at Road America.

While Mayer started fifth in the 49-lap extended race, his two prior trips to the 4.048-mile road course were cruel with finishes of 35th and 20th. This time, a homecoming trip to the largest road course on the NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule was most kind to its native son.

Before Mayer made his presence known toward the front of the field, he lurked inside the top 10 for the early portion of the race. Mayer’s JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier dominated the opening stanzas at Road America, passing pole sitter AJ Allmendinger on Lap 6 to sweep Stages 1 and 2.

As JR Motorsports asserted themselves into the hunt, Chandler Smith and Alex Labbe emerged out of separate but harrowing accidents toward Turn 1. Smith experienced brake issues with his No. 16 ride, prompting the freshman racer to intentionally drive his car toward the driver’s left side wall at the end of the frontstretch.

Despite the heavy damage to Smith’s car, the Georgian clambered out of his mangled machine under his own power. The accident caught the attention of Allmendinger, Smith’s Kaulig Racing teammate, prompting the No. 10 team to add brake fluid while addressing his car’s electrical issues.

Likewise, Labbe experienced a similar issue with his machine as he clobbered the Turn 1 barrier, causing the Canadian racer to initially lay down on the ground. Once Labbe was able to regain his bearings, he was able to walk to the ambulance and away from his wrecked No. 08 Ford Mustang.

Justin Allgaier seemed like the driver to beat at Road America. (Photo: Logan Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Once the race neared its conclusion, Allgaier was in position to score his second victory at Road America in the past five years. Leading 42 laps, the 37-year-old Riverton, Illinois native kept his No. 7 Chevrolet at the front of the field even when fluid from the No. 19 of Connor Mosack brought out a red flag of nearly 10 minutes.

With the race coming down to an Overtime restart, Allgaier led the way but he was flanked alongside a cagey Parker Kligerman and an equally tenacious Sage Karam. Allgaier led the field through the initial corners.

Then, craziness ensued as Allgaier’s car went wide before spinning out during a three wide battle for the lead with Mayer and Karam. This opened the door for Kligerman to catch Mayer and Karam as the trio waged in a tenacious dogfight of who would blink first before the stripe.

Karam led the way heading into Canada Corner before Mayer attemped a gutsy outside pass that relegated him to third. Suddenly, Kilgerman took the lead before Mayer, who caught his on track rivals, muscled his way to the inside of the former going uphill on the frontstretch.

Despite Kligerman’s best efforts, Mayer took the lead for good on Lap 48 with a new task of having a clean, smooth final trip around the mammoth road course. Unlike the exciting but messy prior circuit, Mayer kept his No. 1 Chevrolet on course.

More importantly, Mayer drove to his first ever NASCAR XFINITY Series win and in grand fashion at his hometown track. Although Mayer crinkled the front clip of his winning ride while attempting a burnout during his cooldown lap, the 20-year-old racer was jubilant and did his best Superman impression when he celebrated in Victory Lane.

It was a winning Saturday afternoon for Mayer and his No. 1 team. (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

“Oh my God! Oh my God. This car is as fast as XFINITY 10G,” Mayer said to NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “It was just about getting track position. We had it there in the end. I lost it for a second and then all hell broke loose there at the end. We ended up in top.

“Oh my God. This team, it’s so special to get that first win (and) get that monkey off your back. It feels so good. I felt it all day. I felt like if I could do this one, I could do anything. We came here today and did that.”

In spite of coming up short of a maiden XFINITY Series triumph, runner-up Kligerman kept his head up high and smiled when recalling the last laps of the race.

“Those last couple of laps were crazy,” Kligerman said to NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “We all hit the speedy dry there in (Turns) 13 and 14. I got the lead but into 14, there was so much speedy dry and I thought the 1 was gone at that point.

“The 24 went off crazy. And so I thought, ‘Alright, I just gotta sorta not blow this corner.’ And there was more grip to the inside. I started sliding out, the 1 got me. I tried to get him. Couldn’t get to him. But congrats to Sam. That’s a big deal up here in Wisconsin.”

Like Alan Kulwicki, Matt Kenseth, Dick Trickle, Jay and Johnny Sauter and Ty Majeski, Mayer becomes the latest pride of Wisconsin to drive into a NASCAR top three division win. Even if his initial bid to try to win the race was unsuccessful, he kept his head in the race with a desirable result.

“I was going to pass (Karam) off into 12 and it went straight,” Mayer said. “There was no grip there offline. It was probably a stupid decision to go on the outside of someone like that. All’s well that ends well, I guess!”

Stage 1 Top 10 Results
  1. Justin Allgaier
  2. Cole Custer
  3. AJ Allmendinger
  4. John Hunter Nemechek
  5. Sage Karam
  6. Riley Herbst
  7. Kaz Grala
  8. Austin Hill
  9. Sam Mayer
  10. Sammy Smith
Stage 2 Top 10 Results
  1. Justin Allgaier
  2. Cole Custer
  3. Sage Karam
  4. AJ Allmendinger
  5. Sam Mayer
  6. Kaz Grala
  7. Josh Berry
  8. Parker Kligerman
  9. Sammy Smith
  10. Josh Bilicki
Henry 180 at Road America Race Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 5 1 Sam Mayer Accelerate Pro Talent Chevrolet Running
2 17 48 Parker Kligerman Spiked Light Coolers Chevrolet Running
3 14 21 Austin Hill Bennett Transportation Chevrolet Running
4 6 24 Sage Karam Carousel Online Toyota Running
5 4 98 Riley Herbst Monster Energy Ford Running
6 13 8 Josh Berry Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Chevrolet Running
7 9 26 Kaz Grala Fire Department Coffee Toyota Running
8 11 91 Josh Bilicki TRIM-TEX Drywall Solutions Chevrolet Running
9 1 10 AJ Allmendinger LeafHome Water Solutions Chevrolet Running
10 33 9 Brandon Jones Meards/Pennington Grass Seed Chevrolet Running
11 32 11 Daniel Hemric Cirkul Chevrolet Running
12 19 27 Jeb Burton Puryear Tank Lines Chevrolet Running
13 34 39 Ryan Sieg Ford Running
14 20 31 Parker Retzlaff (R) FUNKAWAY Chevrolet Running
15 26 6 Brennan Poole Chevrolet Running
16 23 78 Anthony Alfredo DUDE Wipes Chevrolet Running
17 25 02 Blaine Perkins (R) Gratis Chevrolet Running
18 3 7 Justin Allgaier BRANDT Chevrolet Running
19 21 44 Brad Perez Bonesteel Aerospace Chevrolet Running
20 38 4 Kyle Weatherman KSDT CPA Chevrolet Running
21 18 92 Josh Williams Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet Running
22 29 53 Patrick Emerling Chevrolet Running
23 35 38 Joe Graf Jr. GTECHNIQ Ford Running
24 28 35 Stanton Barret Stanton Barrett Family Wines Toyota Running
25 30 66 Dexter Stacey ReCap Recovery Drink Toyota Running
26 12 2 Sheldon Creed Whelen Chevrolet Running
27 31 51 Jeremy Clements Whitetail Smokeless Chevrolet Running
28 22 45 Leland Honeyman Klean Freak Body Wipes Chevrolet Transmission
29 7 19 Connor Mosack Porter Pipe and Supply Toyota Rear Gear
30 2 00 Cole Custer HAAS Automation Ford Accident
31 10 18 Sammy Smith (R) Allstate Peterbilt Toyota Accident
32 27 28 Kyle Sieg RSS Racing Ford Brakes
33 37 08 Alex Labbe Compass Team Schuler Ford Accident
34 8 20 John Hunter Nemechek Mobil 1 Toyota Accident
35 36 43 Ryan Ellis 1-844-TOM-KEEN Chevrolet Accident
36 15 25 Brett Moffitt AM Technical Solutions Ford Hub
37 16 16 Chandler Smith (R) Quick Tie Products Inc. Accident

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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