By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
GMS Racing standout Sam Mayer turned heads as he earned his first career top-five finish in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
At the start of the final stage, Mayer was running fourth in the No. 24 QPS Employment Group Chevrolet Silverado. The 17-year-old picked up a spot when Christian Eckes suffered a driveshaft failure. Mayer found himself chasing teammate Sheldon Creed and race leader Todd Gilliland at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
On lap 122, Creed dove in and slid into Gilliland. The contact sent the Front Row Motorsports driver into the wall. Mayer took advantage of the loss of momentum from the two drivers to take the lead. The Franklin, WI native then started to pull away until the next caution in the CarShield 200 presented by CK Power.
When the race restarted on lap 133, Mayer’s inexperience showed. The rookie driver spun his tires. However, Mayer recovered and cleared Creed off turn two. For the second time, the driver of the No. 24 started to open up a one second lead. Then the caution waved for the final time.
On the final restart, Mayer once again spun his tires. Unfortunately, his teammate Zane Smith was on his tailgate. The well-intentioned push only made the tire spin first. By the time Mayer recovered he had dropped to fifth. He slipped by Stewart Friesen for fourth and then spent the final 12 laps chasing Austin Hill. When the checkered flag waved, Mayer was fourth.
“I was just trying to play games on that last restart, and it didn’t work out in my favor, obviously,” admitted Mayer. “That’s what I get for playing games, I was a sitting duck really. I’m proud of my GMS guys. They did a heck of a job giving me a great truck to run up front. I’m not the fastest guy on this track, but I sure am better in the truck than in the ARCA car for sure.”
Despite no practice of qualifying for the Gateway race, Mayer had more recent seat time at the track than most of his competition. He competed in the ARCA Menards Series Dutch Boy 150 the day before the Truck race. Mayer finished third in ARCA competition.
That seat time proved vital for Mayer. He climbed from 15th at the start to finish the first stage in sixth. Mayer moved up to fourth by the end of the second stage.
The fourth-place finish is the first top-five in the Truck Series for Mayer and came in his fifth career start.
Due to NASCAR’s age restriction on most tracks, Mayer is only eligible to compete in four more Truck races this season. He is competing full-time in ARCA Menards Series East competition for GMS Racing, where he currently leads the points standings. The next scheduled ARCA East race is at Toledo Speedway on Sept. 12.
Photo by NKP / NKP Photo