WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 19: Sam Mayer, driver of the #1 Accelerate Pros Talent Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Shriners Children's 200 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 19, 2023 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Sam Mayer wins NASCAR Xfinity Series Thriller in Shriners Children’s 200 at The Glen

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin won the pole position for
Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen

By HOLLY CAIN
NASCAR Wire Service

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 18, 2023) – JR Motorsports driver Sam Mayer survived a full-contact afternoon at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International – contributing his own bump and run on the final restart to take the lead in overtime and hold off the field for his second career NASCAR Xfinity Series win Saturday in the Shriners Children’s 200 at The Glen.

Mayer’s No. 1 JRM Chevrolet tagged the back of the day’s most dominant driver and then-race leader Ty Gibbs, spinning Gibbs’ No. 19 Toyota which then collected a handful of other lead pack cars. The 21-year old Wisconsin-native Mayer was able to pull away from the mayhem behind and raced off to a .909-second victory over Richard Childress Racing’s Sheldon Creed.

Gibbs, who races full time as a rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series, led a race high 70 of the 86 laps and won both Stage 1 and Stage 2 on the 3.45-mile, 11-turn historic road course in upstate New York. But it was Mayer using that aggressive move forward, that hoisted the trophy.

“On that first one, I got used up, thought I had a good one there’’ Mayer said of the two overtime restarts. “All glory to God for this one because we had to work our tails off for it.

“I wheel-hopped it, that’s unfortunate and I feel bad for doing that, obviously you don’t want to take out any car like that’’ Mayer added. “Just trying to get another win in the Xfinity Series. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I was in there, I put my nose in there and that’s part of it.

“That’s an accident, but I think everyone can agree it’s okay for an Xfinity Series regular to win this race.’’

There is history between the two young drivers, Mayer and the 2022 Xfinity Series champion Gibbs. There was even a physical confrontation between the two after a race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last year.

Gibbs, 20, none too surprisingly, didn’t take kindly to the race ending. He was credited with 17th place on the day.

“I think when you have to race out of desperation like that and you wheel-hop and take the leader out, I guess you can call it a racing incident but it just really sucks,’’ Gibbs said. “We had a really fast Toyota Supra and I really appreciate all the team’s hard work. We had a really good time out there and wish that caution didn’t come. Definitely sucks to get cleaned out there.

“It’s a part of life and a part of racing and you just get over it and when stuff like that happens, desperate moves like that happen, it’s just part of it and you try to keep going. We were really fast.

“I don’t know really know how much of a conversation you can really have with him in that situation,’’ Gibbs said when asked if wanted to have words with Mayer.

“We kind of grew up racing around each other and I think he has more starts than I do and this is his second win so congratulations to him on his second win. Definitely wish I could have gotten my 13th there.’’

Parker Kligerman came through the wreck to finish third in the No. 48 Big Machine Racing Chevrolet, followed by NASCAR Cup Series regular Ross Chastain in the No. 91 DGM Chevrolet and Connor Mosack in the No. 24 Sam Hunt Racing Toyota.

Kligerman’s third-place showing was important as the series heads towards its Playoffs next month. He pulled to within three-points of Riley Herbst for that final transfer position. Herbst’s No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford had a rough day, retiring on Lap 37 and taking a 35th place finish. He had led Kligerman by 17 points coming into the Watkins Glen race.

“We had a great finish and salvaged great points,’’ Kligerman said. “We kept ourselves in the fight, but I’ve got to sort through this one.

“To me, three [points], 15 [points], it all feels the same. It’s so close that can happen in a stage essentially. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. We scored stage points in all stages today so that is a big deal for us.’’

“I think we’re doing the right things, just need a little more,’’ he added with a smile.

Herbst was frustrated, but said he was optimistic about upcoming races – at Daytona Beach, Darlington, S.C. and Kansas to set the 12-driver Playoff field.

“I don’t think we should be in this situation as it is, it’s just frustrating,’’ Herbst said. “We have some good tracks for us and good tracks for Stewart-Haas Racing, I’m excited. It’s just frustrating that things like this beyond our control keep happening, but it’ll turn around one day and when it does we’ll be happy.”

John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer, Chandler Smith, Alex Bowman and Jeb Burton rounded out the top 10. Austin Hill, who was among those collected in the overtime re-start finished 14th and now holds a nine-point advantage over Nemechek atop the championship standings.

The Watkins Glen International race weekend comes to a conclusion on Sunday as the drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series compete for the last few spots on the playoff grid in the highly anticipated Go Bowling at The Glen on Sunday, Aug. 20, the penultimate race of the 2023 regular season.

Limited grandstand seating and general admission tickets are still available, with pricing starting at $85. Fans can also purchase tickets to the Bog, Sponsored by Red Cat, a one-of-a-kind hospitality experience, with an exciting view of all things NASCAR, featuring appearances from NASCAR’s most popular driver Chase Elliott and the back-to-back winner at The Glen, Kyle Larson.

Pre-Race Pit Passes are still available as well. See your favorite drivers up-close on the red carpet, sign the start-finish line and watch driver introductions on the track before Sunday’s big race.

To purchase race tickets and other ticket add-on packages, or for more information on the upcoming Go Bowling at The Glen NASCAR race weekend, please visit www.TheGlen.com.

Denny Hamlin to lead field to green in Go Bowling at The Glen
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin won the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen (3 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – taking to the track twice in Saturday’s final qualifying session alone and bettering his already field-best speed in his second outing.

This is the fourth pole position of the season and third road course pole – also at Sonoma, Calif. and Chicago Street Race – for Hamlin, whose No. 11 JGR Toyota turned a lap of 125.298 mph around the 3.45-mile, 11-turn course in picturesque upstate New York.

“I feel confident in the speed of my car,’’ said Hamlin, whose only NASCAR Cup Series road course win came at Watkins Glen in 2016 “I still think in the top-10 there’s maybe seven better road course drivers overall putting all the laps together and speed. But I think track position is the biggest factor over all that so it’s up to me to make sure I execute at the beginning of the race and then set the tone from there, have good pit stops, have good strategy and let’s see where we’re at.’’

Hamlin will start alongside Hendrick Motorsports’ driver William Byron on the front row – besting Byron’s mark in the No. 24 Hendrick Chevrolet by a slight .19-second. Last week’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course winner Michael McDowell will start third, followed by Hamlin’s JGR rookie teammate Ty Gibbs and two-time defending race winner, Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson.

Road course ace A.J. Allmendinger, of Kaulig Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch and Spire Motorsports’ Corey LaJoie rounded out the top-10. It’s the career best qualifying effort for LaJoie, who will roll off 10th in the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.

Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott was among those that did not advance past first round qualifying. He was sixth fastest in Group A with only the top five moving to the final round session and his speed will place him 15th on Sunday’s grid.

Elliott was understandably frustrated Saturday about his qualifying showing considering he’s ranked 19th in the standings with the top 16 advancing to the Playoffs. With two regular-season races remaining the former series champion will need to win a race to advance to his ninth-consecutive Playoffs. And Watkins Glen has been a productive venue for the 2021 champion. He won back-to-back races here in 2018-19; the 2018 victory his first ever at the NASCAR Cup Series level.

“Unfortunate,’’ Elliott said of his qualifying run Saturday, noting he was very disappointed after having shown good pace in practice.

“Our prep coming in was really good,’’ Elliott said. “[Teammate] William [Byron] had a lot of pace there so that’s good, hopefully I can figure out how to drive the vehicle faster.

“Daytona, to show up there [next week] and it be a must-win situation is like going to Vegas and having to hit the nearest slot machine for the jackpot,’’ Elliott continued. “That’s just silly. To me, this is opportunity we have the most control over and didn’t have a very good start to the weekend so it puts you in a tough spot.

“It’s no one’s fault but mine that we’re in the spot we’re in. Hate it, but it is what it is and we’ll fight tomorrow to the last lap and hopefully something will fall our way.’’

Bubba Wallace, who currently holds the final 16th Playoff transfer position will start 12th. Daniel Suárez, who is in 17th place in the championship 28 – points behind Wallace, will start 14th.

Martin Truex Jr., who currently leads the NASCAR Cup Series championship by 60-points over Hamlin, will start 19th on Sunday.