Sam Mayer Is in Prime Position to Win Dale Earnhardt Jr. a Championship in 2023
Sam Mayer went winless in his first full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series season in 2022, but a combination of factors could help him become a consistent threat to win not only races but also the series championship this coming season.
Sam Mayer produced a strong, yet winless first full Xfinity Series season
Mayer finished seventh in the 2022 points standings after he was eliminated from title contention in the Round of 8 despite finishes of seventh or better in each of the round’s three events. He was also the highest-finishing driver who did not win a race, while his three JR Motorsports teammates all competed in the Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway, won by Ty Gibbs.
Unfortunately, Mayer’s most memorable moment from the 2022 campaign might be his fight with Gibbs after the April race at Martinsville Speedway. Mayer and Gibbs were part of a three-wide tangle on the final restart as Gibbs dropped from the lead back to eighth. Gibbs then came up to Mayer, who finished fifth, after the race, and a fight ensued.
The two combatants have a rivalry that dates back to their time in the lower levels of the industry. They both won races while competing against each other across six different developmental series since 2018. Gibbs won 27 races across that span, while Mayer went to Victory Lane 15 times.
Gibbs won’t be a problem for Mayer in 2023, however, as Gibbs is moving to the Cup Series to drive the No. 54 car for his grandfather’s Joe Gibbs Racing.
Mayer also won’t have to contend with this year’s series runner-up Noah Gragson, who is graduating to the Cup Series to pilot the No. 42 car for Petty GMS Racing. And the series’ regular-season champion, AJ Allmendinger, is returning to the Cup Series full-time in the No. 16 car for Kaulig Racing.
Those three drivers combined to win 20 of the 33 Xfinity Series races last year, so their absence will leave quite a bit of room at the top of the standings and the front of the field each week.
He’ll get to work with a familiar crew chief in 2023
At age 19, Mayer could be primed to fill that space because he already drives for arguably the preeminent organization in the series at the moment, and he will be reunited with the crew chief with whom he’s had the most success in his career.
Mardy Lindley will take over the top spot on the pit box for Mayer and the No. 1 team at JR Motorsports in 2023 as part of a full restructuring of the crew chief lineup at the organization. He joins the team after spending the last two seasons at Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series.
Lindley won six truck races across those two years, but the bulk of his crew chief success has also come when paired with Mayer. The two worked together from 2018-20 across six different racing series.
Mayer and Lindley began with five races combined in the K&N East and West series in 2018. The victories started to come the following year when they won five of the 15 races they entered in those two series, with Mayer winning the East Series championship.
The pair moved to the ARCA level in 2020 and won five of 13 starts in the national series, one of two starts in the West series, and five of the six races on the East series schedule to capture that circuit’s championship.
Mayer also won his first and only Truck Series race in 2020 at Bristol Motor Speedway, but he did so in a truck for GMS Racing without Lindley on top of the pit box. Otherwise, Mayer has gone winless since Lindley moved to KBM in 2021.
Mayer drove the final 18 races of the Xfinity Series in 2021 after he turned 18 in June, but he crashed out of five of those events and managed only a single top-five with a fourth-place run at Martinsville Speedway in the penultimate race of the season.
Mayer showed substantial progress throughout the 2022 season
He improved rather dramatically this past season with only four crashes in 33 races, with three of those wrecks coming in superspeedway races that are known for producing large, multi-car wrecks that take out a number of drivers at once.
He won his first Xfinity Series pole award in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway before he finished third in the race for his fourth straight top-five finish. Mayer finished the year with 11 top-fives and 19 top-10s, including seven in the season’s final nine races.
The reunion with his once-former crew chief, the quality of resources at JR Motorsports, and the number of 2022 competitors that will not be in the Xfinity Series next season could be the combination that makes Sam Mayer the sport’s next rising star.
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