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Dale Earnhardt Jr Assures Pupil He “Didn’t Let Him Down” After Scraping a Top – 5 Finish at Martinsville

Published 04/07/2024, 7:46 AM EDT

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As the Xfinity Series returned to Martinsville Speedway this weekend for the Dude Wipes 250, all eyes were on Joe Gibbs Racing. However, one valiant driver tried his best to separate the JGR teammates until the very end, eventually falling short owing to team tactics. Despite slotting his #1 JR Motorsports Chevy into the lead with only seven laps to go, Sam Mayer eventually lost out, finishing second behind the night’s most dominant driver, Aric Almirola.

Naturally, the #1 driver wasn’t too happy with his results, sharing his frustrations with the media post-race. But whilst the 20-year-old may be his own toughest critic, Mayer’s boss at JR Motorsports believes the situation couldn’t have been dealt with in a better fashion.

Dale Earnhardt Jr is not hooked on a win

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Sheldon Creed, Aric Almirola, and Chandler Smith were all looking formidable as the lights turned green at Martinsville Speedway. But Sam Mayer was never too far behind. Tussling for the lead with the JGR drivers throughout the first two stages, Mayer’s drive for the lead paid off with 7 laps to go as he passed Almirola. Unfortunately, a late caution would become the veteran’s saving grace, as Mayer would not have to challenge for the lead once more.

Despite Mayer doing exactly that and charging up Almirola’s inside on the restart, Sheldon Creed spelled major trouble when he entered into a three-wide battle with the duo. In the chaos that ensued, Almirola was able to nudge his car ahead and break free from Mayer and Creed’s clutches, pulling away until the black and white checker was raised. After trying his hardest to put the #1 out in front, Mayer had to accept defeat at the hands of the JGR drivers.

However, Dale Earnhardt Jr wanted his young driver to look on the brighter side of things. In the long run, capitalizing on such finishes and bringing home the highest possible position was vital, but couldn’t always be controlled. Junior stated, “He’s (Mayer) beating himself up a little bit because he feels like he lets us down in moments like this but I told him that he lets us down when he runs into the wall on lap one. And runs like tonight’s are what we need, right?”

Junior then reflected on the start of the #1’s season. Compared to his multiple DNFs this year, the 2nd place finish was a welcome change of pace. It was also Mayer’s first top-five this year and his best result after finishing 9th at COTA. Naturally, Junior was pleased that the #1 had brought it home in one piece. He added, “We’ve had a tough start to the season and if you can’t win it, bring it home, right? Bring home what you can, I know he’s disappointed and wants to win, (but) Aric Almirola wants to win bad too, so.”

At the end of it all, Mayer had performed significantly well and capitalized on a solid weekend. This is all that mattered to Junior. He concluded “Everybody out there is hungry, it’s the same level. When it’s not your day, it’s not your day. You gotta get them third and fifth-place finishes and stuff. He’s getting there and he’s learning that, but he just wants to win so bad and tries a little bit too hard sometimes. But we’re not letting down tonight on his result, that’s the kind of results we need when we can’t win the race.”

After taking a look at all the optimism Dale Earnhardt Jr took away from the Martinsville Xfinity race, it’s safe to say his words of encouragement may have rubbed off on Mayer already.

Sam Mayer takes Earnhardt Jr’s advice and looks forward to redemption at Texas

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For Sam Mayer, a win at Martinsville would have helped the #1 JR Motorsports garage gain momentum unlike anything else. But coming off a 30th-place finish at Richmond, second place was enough to satisfy the otherwise tough critic. “I mean, the way this year’s gone I’m happy with P2 at the end of the day,” Mayer was quoted by YardBraker after the race.

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Finishing the race and bringing the #1 Chevy home in one piece had gained more importance for Mayer, just as Earnhardt Jr had stated. Mayer added, “10X Chevrolet was really really good today. Man, those restarts here are just ruthless and painful. I mean, obviously, the #20 (Almirola) was really really good today it was good that I was able to keep up and be as fast as them and pass all those JGR cars there at the end, and march up to the front, for real.”


The 2nd place finish was also Sam Mayer’s best result at the half-mile to date. With 2 top fives and 3 top tens, Mayer’s highest finish at Martinsville was previously fourth. Looking back on the progress, the 20-year-old added; “That’s the first time I’ve done that here so super proud of these guys, we’re digging ourselves out of a hole little by little.” Still, there were some frustrations over losing first place that Mayer needed time to process.

He concluded by sharing, “But at the end of the day, we needed a W and got one I feel like was stolen from me there a little bit. Tough deal but we’re gonna move on to, I don’t even know where we are next week, probably a good track for me. So, I ain’t worried about it we’re gonna go and try to haul the mail there.

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Now that the #1 JR Motorsports garage seems to have gained much-needed momentum, do you think a trip to victory lane could be in the books for Mayer at Texas Motor Speedway?

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Written by:

Kabir Bajaj Ahmed

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Kabir Bajaj Ahmed is an F1 & NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. Known for his storytelling and extensive research skills, he has covered multiple stories on Dale Earnhardt Jr and his legendary dad, allowing readers to relive the thunderous days of 'The Intimidator'. Being a racer himself, Kabir can resonate with the motorsport world better than most.
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Edited by:

Ariva Debnath