Days after confirming a NASCAR Xfinity Series deal with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports for the next two years, 17-year-old Sam Mayer owned the night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Earlier this week, NASCAR Xfinity Series team JR Motorsports announced a multi-year deal for Sam Mayer, who is currently too young to compete full-time in the series. Mayer turned 17 years old in late June, and he currently competes full-time in ARCA Menards Series East.
Due to NASCAR’s restriction on drivers under the age of 18 competing in races at tracks of 1.5 miles in length or longer, Mayer has only been able to compete in select races in the ARCA Menards Series as well as the Truck Series over the last few seasons.
But earlier this week, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Xfinity Series team confirmed a deal that is slated to make him a full-time driver at NASCAR’s second highest level when he turns 18 years old about halfway through the 2021 season.
To ensure that he can compete for a championship for the organization, this deal officially becomes a full-season deal for the 2022 campaign.
Here is what Mayer, whose relationship with the team goes back several years, had to say about the deal in a statement.
“Having the opportunity to return to JR Motorsports after racing late models with them in 2018 is definitely very special to me. Being able to share this news makes me very excited for the coming year. I hope I can learn as much as I can in the second half of next season and to be ready to go race full-time for the NXS championship in 2022.”
Days after this deal was announced, the teenager went out and dominated at Bristol Motor Speedway to justify the team’s faith in him.
In his seventh career Truck Series start, he secured his first victory behind the wheel of the #24 Chevrolet for GMS Racing by winning the playoff opener, thereby denying the 10 playoff drivers the right to automatically advance to the next round of the postseason.
A few minutes later, he hopped behind the wheel of his #21 Chevrolet for the team in the ARCA Menards Series and battled it out with fellow underage/part-time driver Ty Gibbs of Joe Gibbs Racing en route to securing the victory and sweeping the night at “The Last Great Colosseum”.
Just like that, nobody looks smarter throughout NASCAR’s ladder system than Dale Jr.
Through five ARCA Menards Series East races this season, Mayer, who won last year’s championship with four wins in 12 races and just one finish outside of the top five, has four wins and a worst finish of second place.
In 12 starts as a part-time driver in the ARCA Menards Series, he has five wins, all in the last seven races, and just one finish outside of the top four, with that poor result only coming due to a radiator issue. Last season, he finished outside of the top five just once in eight starts, with that poor result only coming due to a fuel pressure issue.
Mayer had not achieved a ton of success in his first six Truck Series starts, with his only top 18 finish having been a fourth place finish at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway last month, but how and when he was able to achieve his maiden victory made a huge statement throughout the garage.
The fact that he backed it up with another win the same night didn’t hurt, either.
Naturally, a deal with JR Motorsports also puts him in the best possible position for a promotion to the Hendrick Motorsports Cup Series team, given that Rick Hendrick also co-owns the former and two of their three contracted drivers for the 2021 season graduated from that program in recent years.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet, as the earliest possible year for that promotion would be 2023, and Hendrick’s team, aside of the yet to be confirmed driver of the #48 Chevrolet, is loaded with a formidable young core that likely won’t be losing any pieces anytime soon.
Let’s also not forget that at 17 years old, Mayer is in no rush for that kind of a deal. Even Hendrick’s youngest driver, the almost-23-year-old William Byron, is more than five and a half years older than the Franklin, Wisconsin native.
But for the time being, it is quite evident that JR Motorsports’ future looks pretty bright.