BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Sam Mayer celebrated his recent promotion to JR Motorsports by scoring his first NASCAR national series victory with a Truck Series win Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The 17-year-old Mayer was hired this week to race in the Xfinity Series next season for JR Motorsports. His win in his seventh career Truck Series start — fourth this year — was an upset in the opening race of the playoffs.
Mayer passed title contender and teammate Brett Moffitt to score the victory for GMS Racing. He’s the second youngest Truck Series winner behind Cole Custer, who was 16 when he won at New Hampshire in 2014.
“What? Oh my gosh, Bristol, dude. I love this place,” Mayer said in somewhat disbelief. “That feels so good.”
Mayer was set to race later Thursday night at Bristol in the ARCA Series event. Mayer has four wins in 11 ARCA starts this year.
A win by any playoff driver would have earned an automatic berth into the next round. But the field was upstaged by the teenager who signed his career-changing deal Wednesday.
Mayer first joined JR Motorsports’ Late Model program in 2018, and now will return for the second half of the 2021 Xfinity Series season when he’s 18 and eligible to run at that level. He is slated to race full-time in 2022.
Mayer is the son of former IndyCar and road racing driver Scott Mayer. He’s run a mixed schedule this year of ARCA, and ARCA East and West series races, winning eight times.
Moffitt finished second and moved to the top of the Truck Series standings. The defending race winner made it a 1-2 finish for GMS Racing. Sheldon Creed and Zane Smith, both GMS drivers also in the playoffs, finished 12th and 17th.
“I am proud of everyone at GMS for bringing not just mine, but Sam’s and Sheldon and Zane all having fast trucks in the playoffs,” Moffitt said. “That’s what we need. We need to have four trucks at Phoenix racing for a championship and this is a good start.”
Tanner Gray was third and followed by Parker Kligerman and Trevor Bayne. Chandler Smith was sixth and Grant Enfinger was seventh — the second best finish among playoff drivers.
Tyler Ankrum picked up his first career stage victory and finished eighth, followed by Ross Chastain and Johnny Sauter.
Moffitt has a 37-point lead over eighth-place, the cutoff line, for the playoffs. The series goes to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next week then eliminated two drivers at Talladega Superspeedway in October. Christian Eckes and Todd Gilliland are both below the cutline.