Dale Jr’s Xfinity Star Deems 2024 “A Year From Hell” as He Dissects Heartbreaking ‘200-Lap’ Narrative

Published 03/02/2024, 6:25 PM EST

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As the Xfinity Series finally made its way to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway after two weekends of back-to-back superspeedway action, all eyes were on pole sitter Cole Custer, who was hoping to redeem his season-opening woes at Vegas. But while the reigning champion did fall back to fifth on the very start, the biggest blow in the first stage of the Vegas Spring Race was delivered to JR Motorsports on lap 8.

Dale Earnhardt Jr’s rising star, Sam Mayer, had a dismal start to the season with a DNF at the United Rentals 300 after a wreck set the tone for his race at Atlanta as well. But this time around, the man who qualified down in 14th position, driving the #1 Club Car Chevrolet, was hoping to pick up the pace with a top ten. Unfortunately, it seems fate doesn’t seem to be easing up on Mayer anytime soon, with a wreck between #1 and #31 belonging to Parker Retzlaff.

Sam Mayer and JR Motorsports comeback hopes go up in flames at windy Vegas


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Entering lap eight after a fairly uneventful start, we got the first taste of action on lap 8 when Parker Retzlaff’s #31 Jordan Anderson Racing car broke traction through turns 3 and 4. As Retzlaff tussled with the wheel, Sam Mayer unfortunately got tangled in the mess, resulting in contact with the left rear of the #31. The crash resulted in Retzlaff’s FUNKAWAY Chevrolet Camaro sustaining major damage to the rear fenders, but the crew was able to fix up the Chevy in time to make it back out on track. While Retzlaff had qualified in fourth, the incident certainly leaves #31 with major ground to cover.

On the other hand, Mayer wasn’t as fortunate, with his #1 JR Motorsports Camaro returning to the garage and retiring after completing only 7 of the 200 laps at the Las Vegas Spring Race. Reflecting on his streak of poor results and misfortunes, Custer stated, “Yeah, I don’t know, it’s just a year from hell. It’s been unreal, I feel like we haven’t really done anything wrong, except for be right where everyone else is wrecking, so it’s just part of the gig, I guess.”

Mayer added, “But our Club Car Camaro was really good this weekend and I was really looking forward to seeing what we can do. I think that the race was already positive compared to practice so, very unfortunate, I think I have a total of like, 200 laps this year. So, very very frustrating and unfortunate, and I mean, I just can’t wait to get to Phoenix.”

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And with yet another DNF plaguing Sam Mayer’s 2024 Xfinity Series campaign in just the first three races, the road ahead to recovery will be even longer. But that’s not all, the man who decided Mayer’s fate unintentionally also met a similar end to his Spring Race venture.

Parker Retzlaff dissects what went wrong as Sam Mayer takes on collateral damage


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For Parker Retzlaff, the Las Vegas Spring Race was going to be a vital race to establish his position as an early title contender after scoring two top-fives at the superspeedways. Unfortunately, loss of traction on lap 8 for the #31 Jordan Anderson Racing Camaro resulted in Retzlaff breaking free. Ultimately, a tap from Sammy Smith’s #8 Camaro catapulted Retzlaff’s car into the path of Sam Mayer, who got collected in the process.


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Despite the unfortunate wreck, Retzlaff presented a positive case for the #31 garage. He stated, “I think we had a good car, we were just trying to hold on. We were free at the beginning of the race and then the #8 just got in my left rear a little bit and I got around and then the #1 just couldn’t avoid it and then got in my left rear and it destroyed all the crush panels and everything else in the left rear and made the hard day just kind of a struggle there.” 

With most of the #31 damaged from the rear end, Retzlaff’s charge back to the top five was looking implausible, and that would prove true when the #31 would have to retire. Concluding by sharing his plight, Retzlaff added, “We were just trying to hold on, not crash and I mean, we literally didn’t have a left rear quarter panel or anything so it just drove not good and we were just trying to make it. Then we got all that fixed and then the fuel cable broke, so we were no longer getting fuel so it made a DNF for our day and we’re just going to go back to the shop and continue to get better and go to Phoenix next week.”


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With that said, the coming weekend at Phoenix Raceway will be another important opportunity for Retzlaff to rebuild on the momentum he had found with the #31 and the superspeedways.



Written by:

Kabir Bajaj Ahmed


One take at a time

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:

Shivali Nathta