The metaphor of the night was Sam Mayer grabbing the bull by the horn, but in reality, he simply outran them.
The 15-year-old outdueled JR Motorsports teammate Josh Berry to win the Solid Rock Carriers 123 at Wake County Speedway on Saturday night. It was his first CARS Tour victory and came under the most unique of circumstances.
Having competed in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series race the night before, Mayer hadn’t turned a single lap at the shortest track in the division until Saturday practice.
He took the lead in the middle stages of the race and was a half lap away from taking the checkered flag when Sammy Pacitti and Alex Fleming spun in Turn 4 to set up a green-white-checkered. Mayer got the jump on his teammate and beat four-time NASCAR national champion Lee Pulliam to the line to earn the biggest win of his young career.
“I was just freaking out,” Mayer said. “I’ve never led a Late Model race like this before. It’s insane. The competition is so good here in CARS Tour. I had to learn a little bit there, but the JR Motorsports guys put together a great car for me. Having no practice, and basically being blind out here, it’s amazing how great these guys are.”
Mayer qualified 10th but quickly worked his way to the front of the field. He was running third behind Bobby McCarty and Deac McCaskill on a Lap 75 competition caution. That’s when Mayer asserted control of the race, jumping both leaders on the ensuing restart.
Around the same time, Berry was working himself in contention after having started last for a disastrous weekend that included a Friday practice crash and a blown motor. A caution on Lap 88 allowed Berry to close the gap and broke into the top-five on that next restart.
Pulliam held second for much of the final 25 laps but Berry picked him off and was poised to finish second before the final caution.
Mayer beat Berry and Pulliam out of Turn 2 on the overtime shootout and won the race. Pulliam was the first to congratulate him and said he did a hell of a job.
“It’s so hard to pass here, and it’s really tight,” Mayer said. “Even with the lapped cars, it is so hard to get under them, but honestly the CARS Tour does such a great job with everything. They are the best series out here, and the competition is awesome, as I got to outrun people like Berry and Pulliam. It’s such a great feeling.”
Pulliam finished second, with Berry drawing the short stick to finish fifth. He summed up his experience on a Facebook post.
“Wrecked car, different motor, barely any practice, start last due to having to fix car… a lot of people said told me we should park it but I’m sure glad we didn’t. Thank you to all our guys for busting their ass all weekend and rolling with all the punches.”
With a second place, Pulliam gained five points on championship leader Bobby McCarty. The two are now separated by 15 points with just two races remaining.
The complete results from Wake County can be found below.
- Sam Mayer
- Lee Pulliam
- Layne Riggs
- Deac McCaskill
- Josh Berry
- Bradley McCaskill
- Bobby McCarty
- Brandon Pierce
- Ronald Hill -1
- Eric Winslow -1
- Ty Gibbs -1
- Charlie Watson -2
- Thomas Beane -2
- Alex Fleming OUT
- Sammy Pacitti OUT
- Zachary Marks -9
- Cody Haskins OUT
- Dylon Wilson OUT
- Mike Chambers OUT
- Randy Renfrow OUT