High expectations follow teen Sam Mayer; just as he wants it

As Sam Mayer gets ready for his Xfinity Series launching Sunday at Pocono Raceway, the JR Motorsports motorist is not scared to share his lofty objectives.

“Whenever I hear someone say, ‘You always want to underestimate something and then exceed your expectation,’ … you’re pretty much giving up before you get there,” he informed NBC Sports.

“I don’t want to get to my expectations right away. I’m going to shoot for eight (Cup) championships and 201 race wins in the Cup Series because I want to break all the records in the world.

“So, I’m going to put all the expectations all the way out there — where it is borderline impossible to reach — and if I can’t get there, a close second is 150 wins and seven championships. … Even if you don’t get to your expectations, you’re still breaking a lot of records, you’re still making a lot of people proud, and you’re doing well.”

Those are colossal objectives for a chauffeur who doesn’t turn 18 up until Saturday, making him qualified to complete in the series.

However Mayer isn’t like most rivals.

The boy of a racer, who matured running laps on a small Roadway America go-kart course on the household’s Wisconsin home, Mayer is poised to continue the rise of young chauffeurs altering the face of NASCAR. He’s had an agreement with JR Motorsports to race in the Xfinity Series because September 2020 — 9 months prior to he was qualified to complete. He’ll race a complete season for JRM in 2022.

A youth motion that saw in 2015’s Cup champ (Chase Elliott, age 24), Xfinity champ (Austin Cindric, 22) and Outdoor Camping World Truck Series champ (Sheldon Creed, 23) all in their 20s, continues this season.

  • 10 of 17 Cup races have actually been won by chauffeurs in their 20s, led by 28-year-old Kyle Larson’s 4 triumphes.

  • 7 of 15 Xfinity races have actually been won by chauffeurs in the their teenagers or 20s.

  • 8 of 11 Outdoor Camping World Truck Series haves have actually been won by chauffeurs in their 20s.

Scott Lagasse Jr., who has actually raced with and fielded TA2 cars and trucks in the Trans Am series for Mayer, is amazed with what he’s seen from the teen.

“He’s special,” Lagasse informed NBC Sports. “I think the sky’s the limit. He’s become almost like a little brother to me, and I’m pretty hard on him because he frankly is that special. He’s got all the ability in the world to go wherever he wants to go to. The cool thing for me is I’ve seen the work he’s willing to put in.”

With any mission for records comes the primary step and the very first victory.x

Mayer stated on Wednesday’s NASCAR America MotorMouths that he is “expecting to win” any of his very first 3 Xfinity begins in the No. 8 automobile for JRM. That automobile currently has actually won this season with Josh Berry at Martinsville.

If Mayer wins in the next 3 races, he would end up being the youngest series winner, breaking Joey Logano’s record. Logano was 18 years, 21 days when he won the Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway in 2008.

“It’s special to be able to hold it,” Logano stated of the record, “but you want to see progression in this sport, so in a ways, you hope it gets beat.”

Ought to Mayer win this year, he would sign up with Ty Gibbs as the 2nd 18-year-old to win in Xfinity this season. Gibbs has 2 triumphes, consisting of a win in his very first series start. Gibbs was 18 years, 4 months, 16 days when he won at the Daytona roadway course in February.

Gibbs’ wins fuel Mayer.

“If he’s beating all these guys in the Xfinity Series, I feel like I can go out and do the same,” Mayer informed NBC Sports.

Meyer and Gibbs have actually raced versus each other for many years. They’ve frequently dueled at the front in ARCA races. Both are gone into in Friday’s ARCA race at Pocono Raceway.

“We’ve kind of got a relationship where we’re like frenemies, I guess,” Mayer stated. “We’re kind of buddies off the racetrack and then when on the racetrack, we race like hell to win.”

Inquired About Mayer in a media session today, Gibbs stated: “Sam is a really great kid, and I’ve raced him a lot the last couple of years. I really don’t spend too much time with a lot of race car drivers, honestly. I’ve got three close friends that are racers. … He’s a great kid. I’ll race everybody the same, and I want to beat them all.”

So does Mayer, who began racing go-karts at age 4. Even then, Scott Mayer believed his boy might be headed for success.

“It just seemed like it was meant to be, it was what he wanted to do,” Scott Mayer informed NBC Sports. “I knew I would have the opportunity and resources through connections and funding to be able to do that. … Looking back, it was really naive of me to think that, but hindsight is also 20/20, it’s proven to be true. What I thought of him at 4, 5, 6, 10 years old, I see coming to fruition now.”

Scott Mayer indicates those laps his boy operated on the household’s half-mile go-kart course as a great training school.

“It’s not cleaned every day, and it’s in the middle of a corn field, so there’s constantly dust and dirt blowing on it, so it’s always slippery,” Scott Mayer stated. “That built car control for him.”

Sam Mayer states just as soon as did he go flying off course, through the lawn and into the corn field.

“My left foot got stuck underneath kind of the nose, and I missed the brake pedal and went shooting off into the corner and went probably like 100 yards into the corn,” Sam Mayer stated. “It took probably about a half an hour to get the go-kart out. It was pretty bad. (The corn stalk) was pretty short. It was probably only about 3 feet tall.”

For several years, Sam Mayer concentrated on IndyCar racing, however he all of a sudden chose at age 11 he wished to race in NASCAR. He can’t remember what resulted in the modification, simply that his drive ended up being concentrated on stock cars and trucks. The choice surprised his daddy.

“He about started crying because he had no idea of what to do,” Sam Mayer stated of his papa. “He had no connection in NASCAR. He did IndyCar for a while and he knew everyone in the sport. He was well on his way of making connections for me (in IndyCar).”

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 225 Practice

NASCAR Outdoor Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 225 Practice

Scott Mayer sought advice from Colin Braun, a previous NASCAR motorist and colleague to Mayer in choose NASCAR Grand Am races in 2012. Braun led them to Lorin Ranier, who has actually assisted guide Mayer’s advancement.

Among the choices was to have Sam Mayer race a Legend Automobile in the Summer Season Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That suggested Sam and his papa flying from Wisconsin to Charlotte and back weekly throughout the season.

Mayer went on to win the 2017 Young Lions champion at the U.S. Legends Asphalt Nationals in Las Vegas.

He declared the 2019 and ’20 champions in the ARCA Menards Series East. He won in his seventh profession Truck Series begin, taking the checkered flag in 2015 at Bristol Motor Speedway. That made him the second-youngest winner in series history. Later on that night, he won the ARCA race at Bristol.

“This is truly what he wants and this is what he’s going to do, no question,” Scott Mayer stated of his boy’s desire for a racing profession.

If there was any doubt, consider what Sam Mayer did last August.

Running 3rd in a TA2 race at Roadway America, he was gathered in a chain-reaction, multi-car crash. The fuel cell burst and fire rapidly spread out. A little burn mark stays on the back of his neck.

With a hairline fracture of his ideal wrist, he pulled the guiding wheel off, decreased the window web and started to climb up out as flames were around his automobile.

“The worst part about that was having to run through the flames on the track because gas was all over track,” he stated.

A week later on, he completed third in the ARCA race on the Daytona roadway course with the hurt wrist.

The possibility now to race with among the leading Xfinity groups is not lost on Mayer, who just recently finished from high school.

“I’m getting the opportunity,” he stated, “and I just want to make the most out of it.”

2. Various approaches

There was a time when automobile owner Rick Hendrick didn’t allow his chauffeurs to race in other series, mainly sprint automobile racing, however his frame of mind has actually altered over the last few years.

That’s enabled Kyle Larson to complete in mid-week occasions at brief tracks throughout the nation — simply as he did this previous week in 2 occasions in South Dakota. He is set up to run 3 sprint automobile races next week in Pennsylvania and one in Maryland.

“I basically told them, ‘If you get hurt, I got to put somebody in the car,’“ Hendrick said of his instructions to his drivers.

“I think as we get closer in the playoffs, I think we’ll slow some of it down. But (crew chief Cliff Daniels) and I have talked about it. It makes (Larson) better to drive all these different cars, especially those high-horsepower cars on dirt.”

Hendrick kept in mind that enhanced precaution in other series have actually made it simpler to permit his chauffeurs to complete beyond their Cup flight.

Larson isn’t the only Cup motorist who will be racing a sprint automobile next week. Christopher Bell will drive in the very same occasions with Larson on June 28-29.

Not every Cup group is as lax about what chauffeurs can race. Ryan Blaney stated today that he’d like to race other kinds of cars and trucks however is not enabled by Group Penske.

“If it was up to me, I would race a lot, I would do as much as I can,” Blaney stated. “The way it’s worked out right now is that’s just not an option. I’m a racer, and I would love to race all kinds of series, whatever it is because seat time is seat time and it helps you become a better racer. Unfortunately, that’s just not in the cards right now. I wouldn’t mind definitely even like Xfinity and Truck races, but that’s just, like I said, not in the cards.”

Travis Geisler, competitors director at Group Penske, states security is an essential factor for why the company restricts what its chauffeurs can do.

“You look at risk level for your driver, who is an asset for your company,” he stated. “It’s somebody that represents all of your sponsors. You have your whole program built around your drivers, and I think when you see them in situations where you don’t really have control over, I think that become uncomfortable for people.

“When you look at going and jumping in other people’s cars, different things, you don’t necessarily have the same kind of oversight to their safety equipment that you have when it’s one of our cars and we’ve prepared it, we know everything about it. We know all the safety stuff that NASCAR puts into their races, so I would say that’s probably what I see as being the biggest limiter to it.”

Geisler kept in mind that there are cases where the company has actually enabled its chauffeurs to race in other series. That took place previously this year. Both Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano raced on dirt prior to completing in the Cup race on dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“That’s why you saw Brad Keselowski go race a dirt late model,” Geisler stated. “You saw Joey Logano go race at Volusia (Speedway Park in Florida) and Bristol in a modified. We were going to race dirt and nobody knew how to do that, so, ‘OK, we have a performance advantage here, let’s go do it,’ and everybody was on board.

“That was something everybody supported, and I think that applied to our series, so it made sense. Going and racing otherwise, I think that’s evaluated on probably a case-by-case basis.”

3. Looking for to close the space

After each of its 3 chauffeurs won within the very first 10 Cup races this season, the fortunes for Group Penske have actually soured.

Considering That May, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have actually integrated for 4 top-five surfaces in points races (all 3 chauffeurs positioned in the leading 5 in the NASCAR All-Star Race).

While Group Penske’s chauffeurs have actually struggled, Hendrick Motorsports has actually won the last 5 points races and the NASCAR All-Star Race.

“Certainly, you get tired of going to the track every weekend not feeling like you have the opportunity to go out and dominate and win a race,” stated Travis Geisler, competitors director for Group Penske. “That’s what we go there for and that’s not the case right now.

“It’s not necessarily panic, but the realities of where you are and how much ground you need to cover to close the gap.”

How to do that? Geisler was asked if a group concentrates on themselves or takes a look at what the Hendrick cars and trucks are doing.

“I think primarily, you have to focus internally because that’s what you can control,” he stated. “You can’t control what Hendrick has and what they’re working on.

“But you certainly compare against the best and the SMT tools that we have to compare the on-track performance, where you’re getting beat, where they’re able to make more speed, whether it’s entry, exit, middle, short, medium, long-term runs. … The best you can do when you’re trying to copy somebody is be just a little bit worse than them. You’re never gonna be as good as somebody that you try to copy, so the only thing you can do is be the best version of yourself.”

Yet, for the obstacles Hendrick cars and trucks present to the remainder of the field, they likewise supply hope. Specifically as one recalls to last season when Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin controlled the routine season.

“I don’t think you would have looked at (Elliott) as the guy you would have said was gonna go win the championship as the playoffs started to unfold,” Geisler stated. “But he had some heroics and won the last two races and ends up the champion, so not panic but definitely realistic on the ground that needs to get covered here over the next couple months and then you’ve got to be there when it counts at the end.”

4. Preventing a repeat of in 2015

Tyler Reddick enters this weekend holding the 15th of 16 playoff areas. While he has a 49-point lead on Kurt Busch, the very first motorist outside a playoff area, Reddick understands just how much this weekend’s 2 races can alter a chauffeur’s playoff fortunes.

All Reddick needs to do is take a look at what took place in 2015 at Pocono.

He got in the 2020 Pocono doubleheader holding the last playoff area by one point. After the track’s 2 races, Reddick was outside a playoff area by 26 points.

Reddick scored 9 points — out of an optimum 120 — in the 2 races. A crash in the very first race and a mechanical concern in the 2nd destroyed his weekend. He missed out on the playoffs in 2015.

It is the memory of that weekend that is with Reddick as the series go back to Pocono.

“You got to make sure you have a smooth weekend,” he stated. “If you have a really bad day on Saturday and don’t get any points, it’s really going to set you back going into Sunday. … You got to realize every risky decision and everything that you could do on Saturday that could be a risk potentially affects what happens ultimately on Sunday as well.”

Reddick likewise stated that doesn’t suggest he can be conservative all the time.

“Pocono is the type of race where I feel like racing hard on restarts is important, but the way that you win that race or get a good points day out of it is picking and choosing battles and executing the race strategy perfectly,” he stated.

“You don’t want to get caught up racing a guy for one point, one spot, and lose 1.5-2 seconds battling someone and lose touch with the rest of the field ahead of you.

“It totally changes up your strategy and what options you have available to you to try and maybe get ahead of them in a pit cycle; whatever it might be. You have to race smart. That’s just the type of race that Pocono is with the package we have. You have to race a little bit smarter than hard.”

5. Secret method at Pocono

With Pocono Raceway so big that groups can pit under green and not lose a lap, pit method might play an essential function in both Cup races this weekend (3 p.m. ET Saturday and 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday, both on NBCSN).

In both of in 2015’s races, the winner pitted 3 laps prior to completion of phase 1, quiting phase points. Kevin Harvick utilized that method to win the Saturday race. Denny Hamlin utilized that method to win the Sunday race. That win connected Hamlin with Jeff Gordon with most triumphes at Pocono at 6.

Winning phases is not normally a path the race winner takes at Pocono. Just 2 of 16 phase winners there won the race. 2 of the last 8 phase winners at Pocono completed the race in the leading 10. 3 of the last 5 Pocono winners did not lead up until past the midway mark.

Harvick and Hamlin were amongst 5 chauffeurs who completed in the leading 10 in both Pocono races in 2015. The others were Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer.

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Friday 5: High expectations follow teen Sam Mayer; simply as he desires it initially appeared on NBCSports.com

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.