Rookie driver Sam Mayer was the catalyst for a crash that sent two NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers to the garage during a pivotal playoff race at Kansas Speedway on October 23. He has since responded and apologized while referring to the incident as a “racing deal.”
Mayer spoke with NBC Sports reporter Parker Kligerman after the race and discussed the collision that sent both Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson to the garage during the final stage. He provided his side of the story and explained why he moved up the track instead of staying on the inside line.
“I’ll take full credit for it,” Mayer said after the race. “I thought the [No.] 20 was going to side-draft the [No.] 9 a little harder and a little longer, so I moved up to push the 20 because I wanted to clear the 9 so I could race the 20 and get with the 20 and race with him and do one-on-one.
“It’s just a racing deal, in my opinion,” Mayer continued. “Obviously, everyone’s going to have their own opinions, and they are entitled to it because I did make a mistake. But our QPS Chevy Camaro was fast all day. We worked on it all day.”
The Incident Occurred With 22 Laps Remaining at Kansas
The collision between Mayer and Burton completely changed the complexion of the race and shook up the final stage at Kansas. The driver of the No. 20 fell into a deeper hole below the cutline while Gragson went from a comfortable position to a must-win situation.
The No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro moved up the track with 22 laps remaining and clipped the rear of the No. 20, sending it sideways. Burton slammed into the outside wall and crumped the front of his stock car while Mayer moved forward. Gragson, a teammate at JR Motorsports, slammed nose-first into the side of Burton’s stock car and also suffered considerable damage.
Neither playoff driver could continue in the race. They both had to climb out of their respective stock cars and take rides to the infield care center for further evaluation. Gragson finished 35th while Burton finished 34th due to being slightly ahead at the time of the crash.
Gragson Can’t Afford Any Issues at Martinsville
There is one race remaining in the Round of Eight, and all four positions in the championship race are open. The No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing entry has won the first two races — once with John Hunter Nemechek and once with Ty Gibbs — so there is still a scenario where Gragson reaches the championship four for the first time in his career.
Achieving this goal will not be simple. Gragson will have to turn in essentially a perfect performance at a track where he has two top-five finishes in two starts. He can make up the 24-point deficit with points in all three stages and a great finish, or with a win.
The driver of the No. 9 JRM Chevrolet will likely start the race on the fourth row next to Burton. This position won’t be ideal for the short-track race, but it won’t sink Gragson’s chances. He previously started eighth overall during the spring race at Martinsville on April 11. He raced his way to a second-place finish behind teammate Josh Berry.
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