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Debate

Did Sam Mayer's performance in Chicago show he's not ready for the big leagues yet?

Sam Mayer very well deserved a top 5 finish at Chicago Street Course in the Xfinity Series. There’s no question about it. Having finished ninth at the end of Stage 1, eighth at the end of Stage 2, and running in fourth place with just three laps to go, the JR Motorsports driver was desperately unlucky at The Loop 110. The 21-year-old did almost everything right to almost get his sixth top-5 finish of the season, only to spin right in the middle of the track after making contact with Sheldon Creed’s No. 18 Toyota Supra.

As with any sport, especially NASCAR, luck plays a big role in getting a result on track, and in this instance, Sam Mayer was simply unlucky to have nothing to show for all the hard work that he put in at Chicago Street Course.

Mayer did run out of luck in Chicago

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Having finished fifth in qualifying, Sam Mayer was optimistic about his chances at the Windy City. Why wouldn’t he be? Blue skies, a temperature in the mid-70s, and a comfortable breeze made the 2.2-mile downtown Chicago streets track the ideal venue to get a result. The JR Motorsports driver showed great consistency throughout the race, bar the odd incident involving Shane van Gisbergen with six laps to go. Sam Mayer’s Chevy hit the Kiwi’s No. 97 in the Turn 12 corner, forcing van Gisbergen’s car to scrape the wall.

Polls of the day

Polls 1 of 4

Do you think Sam Mayer's performance in Chicago was affected more by the weather or his strategy?

Weather

Strategy

Both equally

Neither

Do you think Kyle Larson's confusion over restart etiquette is genuine or just an excuse?

Genuine

Excuse

Not sure

Do you think NASCAR's latest experiment is ruining the sport?

Yes, it's a disaster

No, it's innovative

I'm on the fence

I don't care

Do you think Shane van Gisbergen can outshine Kyle Larson in the upcoming Cup race?

Absolutely

No way

It's going to be close

Only if Larson makes a mistake

However, things truly took a turn for the worst (literally) with just three laps remaining, when Sheldon Creed, who was hot on the heels of fourth-place Sam Mayer, was seen making contact with the JR Motorsports driver, forcing a spin. As cars began scattering to avoid causing further damage to Mayer’s car, the 21-year-old felt that disaster had already struck.

Speaking about what happened after the final restart, Sam Mayer said, “I just got drove through. It’s part of racing here in Chicago, it’s really upsetting but, our JR Motorsports Chevrolet was pretty decent, but yeah, I’m pretty frustrated right now.” Having already won at Iowa Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway this season, Sam Mayer was asked about the difference between racing on a street course compared to a road course.

The JR Motorsports driver replied, “It’s very different in terms of how much you can push the car. But obviously, it’s very similar in the way you have to drive. I love it, it’s a lot of fun. It was a lot better than last year. Either way, I got a bad taste in my mouth for sure.”

 

Having finished 28th in Portland, and third in Sonoma, Mayer has had mixed results on road courses this season. When it comes to pushing the car to its absolute limit, Sam Mayer has plenty of experience with it. He finished 0.002 seconds ahead of Ryan Sieg in the Andy’s Frozen Custard 400 and outlasted Riley Herbst in overtime in Iowa, overcoming acute tire issues that many drivers were facing on the track.

With eight races remaining before the playoffs, it’s not out of the question that Sam Mayer could win more races this season. Unlike last year, his No. 1 JR Motorsports team has done a much better job of reducing his DNFs, going from 7 last year to just 4 so far. Mayer’s average starting position has improved as well, going from 12.1 in the 2023 season to 10.9 in the 17 races he has competed in so far. Having harbored the dream to compete in the Cup Series for a long time, there could be a chance that it will come true in 2025.

Could Sam Mayer join the NASCAR Cup Series next year?

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Having been a part of JR Motorsports since 2022, Sam Mayer has seen a meteoric rise in his performances year after year, securing six Xfinity Series wins since the start of 2023. Despite his form, not getting chances in the Cup Series has been a frustrating element in his career, but that may change very soon. According to Fox Sports journalist Bob Pockrass, Sam Mayer could be in contention to fill one of the two seats at Front Row Motorsports for the 2025 season.

With Front Row Motorsports acquiring a third charter for the 2025 Cup Series, several drivers will be in contention for a spot on the team. “FRM likely will need drivers with some sponsorship. Noah Gragson, Josh Berry, Xfinity driver Sam Mayer and truck series driver Christian Eckes are expected candidates,” Pockrass wrote. “Gragson is a favorite to land one of the open FRM rides.”

Having driven Chevrolet cars his entire career, the change will be a big one for Sam Mayer. However, it will also be one that he will undoubtedly welcome, considering that he will get the opportunity in NASCAR’s top tier. Moreover, Front Row Motorsports has had a Tier 1 relationship agreement with Ford since 2024, which means Mayer will get a competitive car if he’s selected.

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The possibility to race in the NASCAR Cup Series is all the motivation Sam Mayer will need to finish his ongoing Xfinity Series season on a high.

Do you think Sam Mayer was unlucky at the Chicago Street Course? How else he could have run it better? Share your thoughts