Saturday’s CARS Response Energy Late Model Stock Tour event at Wake County Speedway (NC) may have been contested at the series’ smallest track, but it produced a huge first-time win for a rookie driver.
Sam Mayer held off JR Motorsports teammate Josh Berry and four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion Lee Pulliam to score his first career CARS Tour win.
For Mayer, competing in his first season on the CARS Tour driving for JR Motorsports, the victory is a relief for the young Wisconsin driver’s shoulders. After several top five finishes across a number of different full-bodied stock cars, Mayer was finally able to celebrate a win.
“It’s a huge burden off my shoulders,” Mayer told Speed51.com. “It feels so good, man. It’s so exciting. Victory lane, I’ve never done it before in these things. The JR Motorsports guys put together a great car for me to run here. Having to go practice blind here, it’s insane how good they are.”
Mayer started tenth in the 20-car field at the quarter-mile bullring located outside Raleigh, North Carolina. Mired in the pack, Mayer was forced to work his way through the field before taking the lead on lap 75 of the 123-lap feature.
“Early we had to go to get up front and get the track position because it’s so hard to pass here,” Mayer said. “Even the lapped cars, it’s really hard to get under them. Honestly, the CARS Tour and everyone here does such a good job here. They deserve a thank you, because they’re just the best out here. They’re the best series in the southeast. Outrunning people like Berry and Pulliam is a great feeling.”
Mayer appeared to be in clear sailing until the caution flew with two laps to go for an incident involving Sammy Pacitti. This gave Josh Berry a last-gasp shot at the win after his own recovery drive from the rear of the field after adjusting on his car following time trials.
Mayer cleared Berry exiting turn two on the restart and held off Pulliam’s best shot to preserve the win.
“I used up my tires a little early, I think,” Mayer said about the restart. “I had to start in fourth gear just to avoid spinning my tires on those restarts. I was still able to get a good jump, because the gearing is so small at this small track. We were able to go and get clear.
“Pulliam gave me a shot and said ‘I gave you all I got, man.’ It was a great feeling going into three being clear. Coming to the checkered flag is a great feeling, putting my hand up in the car.”
The win came in Mayer’s first time racing at Wake County Speedway, another in the list of tracks he has added to his repertoire this season. Ranging from this quarter-mile bullring to the road course at Watkins Glen International (NY) where Mayer finished fifth in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event, this season has been about learning for Mayer.
“Everything this year has been learning. I’ve been going to new tracks like here every single weekend. It’s just all about learning and getting ready for next year and the rest of my career.”
The CARS Response Energy Tour will contest two more races this season. The series returns to action in two weeks at Orange County Speedway (NC) before taking the month of October off. The season finale will take place November 3 at South Boston Speedway (VA).
Race fans who missed the action of Saturday night’s CARS Tour event at Wake County Speedway can visit our Trackside Now coverage to view lap-by-lap updates from the race. Click here to see the Trackside Now archive.
-By Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @ZTEvans
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com