Sam Mayer will contend for a championship trophy in two weeks at Phoenix Raceway. The JR Motorsports driver prevailed Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway despite late pressure from Riley Herbst to secure his fourth win of the season, and his first on an oval in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The 20-year-old entered Saturday’s Contender Boats 200 16 points below a spot in the Championship 4.
Though his victory cemented his place in the title-deciding race.
“This is unreal,” said Mayer. “This Accelerate/Huck’s Camaro was just so good. It’s all about putting a full race together, and our guys were so good on pit road and we made it happen with these Hendrick Motorsports engines.”
After winning his first career Xfinity Series race last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Herbst came up just shy of a second straight win aboard the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
It was Herbst’s third consecutive top-four finish.
Behind the front two, John Hunter Nemechek wheeled his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to a third-place finish, enough to push his gap to 44 points above the cutline.
“Overall, solid day. Proud of this whole No. 20 Pye-Barker Toyota GR Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing team,” Nemechek said. “Thanks Toyota, TRD. We are still in a really good points spot going into Martinsville. Just have to go execute – solid points day today, and that’s all you can ask for. Doesn’t matter how you get to Phoenix, just that you get there.
Xfinity Series regular season champion Austin Hill finished fourth while JR Motorsports co-owner and NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. solidified the top five. It was Earnhardt’s first top-five finish since Homestead in 2020.
Cole Custer looked to be in control for much of the afternoon as he cruised out front for 114 laps. Though a flat tire with 50 laps to go while leading derailed the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s potential bid for a win.
The flat tire dropped the No. 00 Ford down the running order, one lap down. Custer would rally to 13th by the checkered flag.
With only one race remaining in the Round of 8, Custer now sits three points above the cutline after entering the race 15 points to the good.
A win on Saturday secured Mayer’s spot in the Championship 4 and the only driver to secure a spot in the title round. Besides Nemechek who sits 44 points above the cutline, it’s a tight race.
Hill is tied with Custer (+3) in fourth, while Justin Allgaier is the first driver below the cutline, three points in the negative. Allgaier crossed the finish line in 15th, one lap down after a left-rear tire issue plagued the No. 7 JRM team.
A ninth-place finish at Homestead didn’t change Sammy Smith’s playoff scenario as he is 49 points in the hole, needing a victory to advance. Chandler Smith spun during the final stage, eventually sending the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet to the garage in 34th. Smith is 54 points below the cutline.
“Yeah, it was an okay day for the No. 18 Pilot Flying J GR Supra team as we struggled a bit with balance and just needed some speed throughout the day today,” Sammy Smith said after the race. “I knew we had to go win either of these two races to advance, so now, have to go to Martinsville and win it – all we have to do. Do whatever it takes to win.”
Richard Childress Racing’s Sheldon Creed finished 26th, pinning him in a 65-point hole.
Martinsville (Va.) Speedway is the final race remaining in the Round of 8.