Sam Mayer scored the first win under the ARCA Menards Series East banner after winning the last NASCAR K&N Series East championship in 2019. It did not come without a heavy threat from a newcomer, however.
Mayer inherited the lead with less than 30 laps to go in the 175-lap season opener at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) Monday after New England Super Late Model standout Derek Griffith took his mandatory pit stop under caution from the lead. To that point, Griffith was dominating the race in his first ever appearance in the series.
Griffith quickly charged through the field on his fresher tires, however, working his way up to second place with seven laps to go. Griffith ran out of time, and Mayer held on for his fifth career win in the series.
Mayer said he was saving his tires while following Griffith for most of the race, knowing he was still due to come down pit road.
“I was riding behind him, saving tires because I knew he hadn’t pitted yet,” Mayer said on the NBC Track Pass broadcast. “I was just saving my stuff because we used our tires already.”
When it was go-time at the end of the race, Mayer was fully focused on reaching the finish line. So much so, that the Wisconsin native did not realize how quickly Griffith was gaining with his fresh tires.
“My spotter never told me that. I didn’t know that. I was just focused out front, making good laps, turning qualifying laps every single lap and it got me to victory lane.”
Despite the runner-up finish, Griffith was all smiles after his charge to a strong finish in his debut appearance in the ARCA Menards Series East.
“Man, that thing was hooked up,” said Griffith. “We didn’t take tires until lap 140 or something like that. These General Tires held up really good.”
When Griffith did pit, he received a penalty for pulling up and passing the pace car, giving him more ground to make up during his late race charge. There was some sting knowing he might have had a better shot at the win without the penalty, but ultimately the New Hampshire driver couldn’t be disappointed in the outcome.
“We screwed up on a caution deal, and it is what it is. If I had five more laps, I think we could have raced with him pretty hard and hopefully came home with it.
“It hurts a little here, but I’m pretty happy. First time in an ARCA East car and bringing it home P2, I’m pretty happy.”
Race fans can visit Speed51’s Trackside Now, presented by PFC Brakes, to relive the action from Monday’s race at New Smyrna.
Fans can also visit Speedweeks Central for all the videos, news and more from Florida Speedweeks.
ARCA MENARDS SERIES EAST OFFICIAL RESULTS
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-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo