THE MODERATOR: We’re going to start our post-NASCAR Xfinity Series championship race press conference. We’re now joined by Sam Mayer.
Q. That finish was crazy, but is there a sense of pride in the fact that you guys were able to go four wide and battle for the win cleanly in overtime without everything turning into a circus?
SAM MAYER: Yeah. That was a lot of fun. That was probably the most fun I’ve had in a race car in a long time.
Obviously we came up a little bit short, but it wasn’t a lack of effort. Our Accelerated guys put together an amazing piece today. They’ve done a great job this entire year. They gave me the opportunity to have a breakout year and even make it to this point.
It’s hectic out there. Like obviously that first restart before overtime we were going to finish fourth, and the good Lord above gave us another shot at it. We came up a little bit short, but it was a really cool opportunity to be able to put on a show like that for one, and to even say that I had a shot at the championship is cool.
I’m going to come back next year, be even better because that was 100 percent right there for me. I’m going to come back and I’m going to raise my ceiling a little bit more and be better and do the thing.
Q. Following up on what you said, you picked a great night for a career-best performance at Phoenix. What does that give you heading into next season knowing that you rose to the moment?
SAM MAYER: Yeah, we were talking about that on the walk over here, and it’s like, being in the Championship 4, it’s like that extra level of just intensity. You have to rise to the occasion to do that. It just makes you perform better. I think it kind of opened my eyes and gave me another ‘a-ha’ moment to where I can do this every week.
The car was really good, obviously. All four of the Champ cars were really fast. That’s why we were all up front. I was like, man, I’m running fourth right now and I’m still losing.
Being fourth obviously at a track like this with my history with it, I’m stoked because it’s my best finish here so far.
It’s still a little bit short, obviously, because all the cars are really good. I’ve got to get myself a little bit better. This was the best I’ve been, but I plan on being even better next year.
Q. When it comes down to those last couple restarts, there’s only so much track, there’s so many cars in front. How much was it kind of trying to go where everyone wasn’t? Were you feeling boxed in depending on where everyone was? Had things gone differently, do you think it would have been a different result?
SAM MAYER: Yeah, those restarts are obviously very hectic. It’s probably the most hectic on the schedule other than Pocono or something like that.
It feels like you’re boxed in, very much so. But you almost kind of just bring that intensity level where I’m just taking this track position and you can get out of the way. Being a Champ 4 car, you almost have to bully everyone else and take what you can, and those last couple restarts I took as much as I could. It’s just like you can only take so much when you’re in that spot.
We were in a tough spot. Obviously second in line bottom was probably the worst spot to be in overall. Still to finish in the top 5 and get third in the Champ 4, it feels good.
But yeah, the intensity is always high, and I always usual suck on restarts. My restarts were actually positive today, so that’s something that I look forward to going into next year, going into everything, and then obviously the Champ 4 and the championship race. Obviously I hope I’m in it, but it gets me excited for that.
Q. Obviously in the second half of the year you scored your first win, scored three more, won your first oval, made the Championship 4. Obviously it’s not the result you guys wanted today, but can you describe the second half of your season, put into words what you guys have been able to accomplish with the 1 team?
SAM MAYER: Yeah, we figured it out — like I figured it out, I guess. Even the cars last year I drove with JRM, they were always really good. I just always was kind of like the weak link – not in a bad way – just to where I was still learning and developing.
These cars are hard to drive. I finally figured it out, got that first win, and the floodgates kind of just opened. I always told myself that was going to happen, and to have it happen feels good because I was almost gas-lighting myself until it happened.
It feels good to finally get that going. Obviously to make the Champ 4 in general is huge. That’s a feat in itself.
I’m happy to be here. It put a smile on my face all week because you only have one first time here in the Champ 4, so I’m looking forward to having another one and doing even better.
Q. You were alluding to it just now, but what have you learned? What was different from last year’s Sam Mayer to this year’s Sam Mayer? I know this is a breakthrough year, you won your first race, but multiple races and when the moment came you rose to the occasion. What was the biggest thing that you saw change between yourself last year to yourself this year?
SAM MAYER: The competition level this year was so high. You kind of just have to try to keep up the best you can. Throughout the whole year I was just trying to figure it out and figure it out. I had good runs, but I was just inconsistent. Finally, when we got to the summer it was like something clicked, and I finally had speed each and every week, was contending with these guys and doing something right. I didn’t know what I was doing different but I was, and I kind of just got used to that feeling.
Obviously getting those wins just takes pressure off your shoulders, like when is it going to happen, when is it going to happen. It finally happened. And like I said, the floodgates kind of opened from there and I finally found success in the series.
There’s not really a big difference in me. It’s just a difference in my performance level.
Q. How do you capitalize on that to go into next year to try to get a few spots better?
SAM MAYER: Obviously that was 100 percent from me. I worked my tail off and gave it all I had. I was keeping up with John Hunter at least a little bit at the end.
But I’ve got to raise my ceiling a little bit next year to be even better, because like I said, the competition level is just so high.
I’ve just got to be better, and I plan on doing that.