RISTOL, Tenn. – Sam Mayer doesn’t have a driver’s license but he already has two victories this season on one of the most challenging tracks in NASCAR.
With a late-race charge, the 16-year-old Wisconsin native won Thursday’s K&N Pro Series East Bush’s Beans 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“That was definitely an awesome race and I hope all the fans enjoyed it,” Mayer said. “I’m ecstatic.”
Mayer led every lap en route to winning April’s K&N event at BMS.
Thursday’s drama culminated with 13 laps remaining when Mayer completed his last-to-first rally by passing Spencer Davis (Dawsonville, Ga.) for the lead.
So was Mayer worried about getting back to the front?
“I felt pretty confident in the car,” Mayer said. “But with the aero and all that, I couldn’t get by [Davis] until he made a mistake.”
Ty Gibbs, the 16-year-old grandson of NASCAR car owner Joe Gibbs finished second, with Ruben Garcia Jr., Mason Diaz and Davis rounding out the top five in the 16-car field.
Davis was not exactly thrilled with Mayer.
“‘It’s Bristol, baby. We got booted out of the way,” said Davis, who led over 100 laps. “You kind of expect that when you come here, especially with how the track is one-groove now.”
The first part of the race saw the simmering feud between Mayer and Chase Cabre boil over on the opening lap.
Mayer entered the night an 11-point advantage over Cabre in series points, but the two have been involved in several racing incidents this season.
In an interview with the Bristol Herald Courier on Wednesday, Cabre described Mayer as “arrogant.”
After Cabre earned the pole with a lap of 15.219-seconds at 126.079 mph and Mayer qualified second, Cabre’s car suffered damage after a bump from Mayer.
“I tried to move him out of the way, but I just got in there too hard,” Mayer said. “[Cabre] kind of deserved it for how he’s raced me this year, but I didn’t want do it like that at all.”
As a result of those early fireworks which resulted in a caution, NASCAR officials ordered Mayer to the rear of the field on the restart. That’s where Cabre restarted as well.
At the end of the first 50-lap stage, which was won by Davis, Mayer had worked his way to fourth while Cabre was mired in the No. 11 spot.
The second stage was dominated by Davis, but Mayer gradually closed the gap.
Cabre, who finished eighth, was unavailable for comment after the race after being placed on a stretcher with apparent cramping issues.
In his post-race press conference, Mayer said he doesn’t want to be involved in a rivalry with Cabre.
“He just keeps racing me like … you know what,” Mayer said. “I can’t say the word that describes him, but he definitely not raced me clean and I haven’t appreciated it.”
Hailie Deegan, a championship contender on the K&N West series, recorded a ninth place finish after driving her usual aggressive race.
“I was going to make chaos back there in sixth place,” Deegan said. “I feel like this is the most I’ve ever learned on the East Coast, racing from the back to the front. Hopefully, I will be racing at Bristol for years to come.”
It was the third win of the season for Mayer, who added to his championship points lead.
“I’m just here to have fun and try to get wins, and hopefully a championship will come with it,” Mayer said.
Before the start of the race, BMS general manager Jerry Caldwell updated fans on Thursday’s plane crash involving Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family in nearby Elizabethton, Tennessee.
Earnhardt was not injured in the incident, but he plans to take the weekend off from his role with NBC Sports.