RALEIGH, NC (August 26, 2018) - Sam Mayer is quickly becoming one of America's hottest racing prospects. On Saturday, he won his first career CARS Response Energy Tour race at Wake County Speedway by beating the toughest names in late model stock racing in a two-lap shootout during the tour's inaugural visit to America's Favorite Bullring.
Local hero Deac McCaskill started the night from the pole position after capturing the Hedgecock Pole Award in qualifying, establishing a CARS Tour track record at 13.172 seconds, an average speed of over 68 miles per hour around the tight .24-mile track. The hometown favorite used the front row start to his advantage and led the opening 20 laps of the race.
Drivers continued to jockey for position early, attempting to establish a comfortable pace for themselves. Bobby McCarty reeled in McCaskill and turned underneath of him on lap 21, taking the lead for the first time in his No. 22 Toyota. The first caution of the night came less than a dozen laps later when Randy Renfrow stopped outside turn four with mechanical issues. A lap later, Alex Fleming went for a harmless spin in turn four, forcing the second yellow of the night on lap 33.
On the restart, McCarty jumped out to the lead and continued to set the early pace while McCaskill, Ty Gibbs, Layne Riggs, Cody Haskins, Sam Mayer and others continued to claw at one another for the remainder of the top five spots. No one had anything for McCarty in the mid-stages of the event and the next forty laps of green flag racing setup the most important restart of the night. By rule, a caution flew on lap 75 after 40 consecutive green flag laps of racing.
McCarty and McCaskill led the field to the green flag, but it was third place driver Sam Mayer who stole everyone's attention on the restart, motoring around McCaskill and McCarty to take his first lead of the night with less than 50 laps to go. Mayer began to stretch his lead out until a pair of caution flags for Ty Gibbs and Dylon Wilson, respectively, slowed the field.
Deac McCaskill used his home track knowledge to outwit the rookie on the lap 88 restart, leading for the second time in the race, but his glory was short-lived as Mayer once again maneuvered around the Raleigh driver to grab the point. Although his teammate Josh Berry and veteran contender Pulliam had moved into the two spots behind him with less than 20 to go, it appeared to be clear sailing for Mayer until Sammy Pacitti and Alex Fleming were caught in a mishap which ultimately brought out the final caution flag on lap 121.
With a hornet's nest of veterans behind him, Mayer rolled through the Jerico Restart Zone and executed a flawlesss restart, running his teammate Berry slightly up the hill in turn one while fending off the advances of Lee Pulliam on the bottom of the speedway. Stalking Mayer from inches behind him, a slip by Pulliam on the final lap in turn two minimized the final chance for anyone to bypass the No. 9 Chevrolet. Driving his No. 5 as deep as he could into the final set of turns, Pulliam was unable to catch Mayer to make any attempt for the win and Sam Mayer drove off turn four to collect his first career CARS Response Energy Tour victory and the second consecutive win for JR Motorsports.
Layne Riggs, Deac McCaskill and Josh Berry followed Mayer and Pulliam to the stripe to complete the top five finishers while championship leader and early race leader Bobby McCarty faded to seventh at the end.
"I was freaking out, I've never led a late model race like this before," Mayer said in Edelbrock Victory Lane. "The competition here is amazing and I've gotta give thanks to the CARS Tour and to all the competitors for racing me clean. JR Motorsports gave me a great car, and I'm having a great time here. But on the final couple of restarts, I was restarting in fourth gear because I felt like I used my tires up a little bit and I didn't want to spin them, so I started in fourth gear and was able to get a good jump on everybody.
"Again, I've got to thank JR Motorsports because I didn't even practice yesterday and they put together a car for me today and we went out there and ran like heck," he continued. "This is an amazing feeling and I feel like I got a huge burden off my chest. We got a huge win at Hickory [in a weekly show], the first one ever in a late model stock, and this tops it off. It's awesome, man."
The next event on the CARS Response Energy Tour comes at Orange County Speedway on September 8 with a 300-lap twin-bill night featuring both the late model stock and super late model competitors. It will be the penultimate race of the season, setting up championship scenarios entering the South Boston Speedway finale just a few weeks later.
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NOTES OF INTEREST:
- Fifth place finisher Josh Berry was happy to simply finish the race on Saturday night, but had a shot to win had circumstances played out in his favor. But prior to race time, few fans thought the No. 88 would even take the green. Berry rolled onto the track for practice on Friday and felt something break in his car, sending the car spinning into the outside wall. With heavy damage, the JR Motorsports team took the car back to their shop overnight, made repairs, and returned Saturday morning. Again, during the first lap of practice, misfortune struck when the engine broke as soon as he hit the speedway. Following an engine change, Berry was able to make the final practice, but elected to forfeit his starting position in the feature after a throttle linkage began sticking and the team was forced to effect repairs. Ultimately, Berry started in the final row of the grid and drove his way to second before the final restart shuffled him back to fifth, an old-school, hard-nosed show fo grit and determination for racers everywhere.
- Thomas Beane didn't have the best of nights on Saturday in the 123-lap late model race, but during Friday night's Prelude To The Bullring at Rush Hour Karting, Beane's team took top honors in an event that pitted fans, drivers, and teams against one another in an 80-minute team format karting event. Beane's team won by more than two laps over teams led by Bobby McCarty, Deac McCaskill, Layne Riggs, Cody Haskins, Brandon Pierce and Bradley McCaskill.
- Lee Pulliam's second place run closed the championship gap to 15 points (unofficially) going into the final two races, setting up yet another CARS Response Energy Tour championship showdown entering the final two events. On the strength of four wins, McCarty has led the standings since the first race of the season, but Pulliam has been chipping a handful of points off the lead over the last several events. After Orange County on September 8, the final showdown between the pair comes on November 3 at South Boston Speedway, a facility both drivers know well and where both have experienced much success.
CARS Late Model Stock Tour
Solid Rock Carriers 123 presented by JEDCO Lawn Care
Wake County Speedway - August 25, 2018
POS NUM DRIVER LAPS REASON OUT
1. 9 Sam Mayer 123
2. 5 Lee Pulliam 123
3. 99 Layne Riggs 123
4. 22 Deac McCaskill 123
5. 88 Josh Berry 123
6. 07 Bradley McCaskill 123
7. 22M Bobby McCarty 123
8. 2P Brandon Pierce 123
9. 74 Ronald Hill 122
10. 22W Eric Winslow 122
11. 18 Ty Gibbs 122
12. 9W Charlie Watson 121
13. 44 Thomas Beane 121
14. 47 Alex Fleming 120 Accident
15. 43P Sammy Pacitti 118 Accident
16. 17 Zachary Marks 114 Mechanical
17. 2 Cody Haskins 91 Accident
18. 4 Dylon Wilson 88 Accident
19. 1M Mike Chambers 56 Mechanical
20. 2R Randy Renfrow 47 Mechanical
21. 77 Trevor Ward 0 DNS / Withdrew