On an afternoon that saw JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier perform a masterclass for 42 of the first 47 laps around Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., in surprising fashion it was his teammate Sam Mayer who wound up the victor for the first time in his 71st Xfinity Series race.
The 20-year-old from nearby Franklin, Wis., was able to overtake Allgaier, Sage Karam and Parker Kligerman on the second Overtime attempt after each driver lost the lead coming to the white flag.
“It was just about getting track position. We had it there at the end and I lost it for a second,” Mayer said in victory lane. “All hell broke loose there at the end and we ended up on top.
“This team – it’s so special to get that first win, that monkey off your back. It feels so good.”
Mayer led only the final two laps after Allgaier took the lead on Lap 6 from pole-sitter AJ Allmendinger and didn’t surrender it until Lap 48 while battling with Karam in Turns 6 and 7.
Allgaier spun in the Turn 8 kink and finished a disappointing 18th while Karam held the lead all the way through “Canada Corner,” soon after getting off track in Turn 13 allowing Kligerman to pounce and grab the lead.
Just as quickly as that heart-pumping battle was over, Mayer stormed to the inside of the No. 48 Big Machine Racing Chevrolet in the final turn and led the rest of the way, taking the checkered flag by 0.368 seconds over Kligerman.
Mayer became the 14th different winner in 14 races at the wildly popular road course and has essentially clinched a Playoff berth with six races remaining in the regular season. It was his fourth top-five in the last six races.
Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill came home third, followed by Karam and Riley Herbst. Josh Berry, Kaz Grala, Josh Bilicki, Allmendinger and Brandon Jones were sixth through 10th. It was the second top-10 of Bilicki’s Xfinity Series career.
The race featured two particularly frightening moments in Turn 1. The first came on the final lap of Stage 1 when Kaulig Racing’s Chandler Smith lost his brakes at the fastest portion of the track after the long frontstretch.
In a heady move, Smith turned his car left into the inside wall to diminish his speed and alleviate some of the damage, but it was nevertheless vicious.
“I definitely was having some brake fade throughout the runs,” Smith said of the scary incident.
“But I didn’t think that I was abusing them by any means to make them fail on me. I was going up the hill on the frontstretch. I heard something snap in half and then I felt something come off of the car and it’s like the whole front nose just dropped when that happened.
“When it happened I was like, ‘What in the world was that?’ I had to keep pumping the brakes going down the straightaways anyways as it was at that point in the run. I went to pump them and there was nothing there, and I just was trying to scrub speed at that point.”
In nearly the same spot on the track with six laps remaining in regulation, Alex Labbe of SS GreenLight Racing also lost his brakes but couldn’t do as Smith did, instead pounding the tire barrier head-on in Turn 1 after going through the sand trap. Labbe dropped the window net almost immediately after the crash and laid on the ground briefly upon exiting his car. Both drivers were OK.
John Hunter Nemechek came into the day with a 13-point lead over Hill and left 14 points behind his fellow four-race winner. Nemechek ran off track and ripped the front splitter from his Toyota GR Supra in Turn 13 with 13 laps left – a considerable distance from the finish on the 4.048-mile track – bringing out the caution and finishing 34th.
Allgaier won Stages 1 and 2 and sits 40 points back of Hill in third place.
The Xfinity Series’ trek to the Playoffs continues next Saturday with the running of the Cabo Wabo 250 at Michigan International Speedway. Coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
- NXS: Sam Mayer steals 1st win of Xfinity Series career in second Overtime at Road America - July 30, 2023
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- NXS: Cole Custer wins 1st race of 2023 at Portland in Overtime - June 4, 2023