Story By: DAVEY SEGAL / NASCAR – NEW SMYRNA, FL – What does the defending East champion do to celebrate in the off-season, gearing up for a repeat effort?
“Literally pretty much nothing.”
Sam Mayer’s celebration as a 16-year-old champion consisted of popping bottles of apple cider in Dover International Speedway Victory Lane once the championship was officially his. After that, it was back to work.
Race craft, time in the simulator, incorporating healthier eating habits into his everyday diet, exercising regularly, plus a little go-karting in between and a test at Five Flags Speedway and New Smyrna Speedway.
“Mardy (Lindley, crew chief) feels like our cars are twice as good as last year,” Mayer said. “Hearing that honesty feels great, not gonna lie. I feel better, too.”
The biggest difference will be the championship trophy. Mayer became the youngest regional or national series champion in NASCAR history with his title run in 2019. A year later, same series, but this time he’s chasing the ARCA Menards Series East title.
The GMS Racing driver mentioned the speed shown at the tests were “way faster than last year” and they believe they’ve zeroed in on things they can do to make their cars even better.
How much better can you get after a season with four wins, three poles, 11 top fives, 11 top 10s, 497 laps led and culminated in becoming a champion at 16 years, three months and eight days?
According to Mayer, a whole lot better. His confidence exudes from 2019’s dominance, and he’s bullish on the No. 21 groups chances to repeat as champions.
“We did it and now let’s go do it again,” he frankly said. “That’s going to have to be our mindset. These Gibbs, Rev and DGR cars are going to be so fast going into this year. They definitely got their stuff together and are a lot better than last year, I can tell.”
Along with the aforementioned crew chief Lindley, Mayer’s team remains mostly intact from last season, something the Franklin, Wisconsin, native understands is a major key.
“Our team chemistry is the biggest thing in general,” he said. “I feel like everything is going to be just as good as last year, if not better. It’s going to be a great year and all the guys are looking forward to a second championship.”
Last season’s opener at New Smyrna seemed to be an effortless top-five finish for Mayer. But upon reflection, he called it one of, if not his worst race of the entire season.
“Having that feeling gives me the confidence to go in and say ‘a good race is probably first,’ he said. “Having that confidence is probably the number one thing going into there.”
“New cars, new competition, I’m definitely going to need to be on my A-game to go out and win this thing. But I have a really strong feeling that we’re going to go out and do it.”
The Skips Western Outfitters 175 is scheduled to go green on Monday, February 10 at 7:30 p.m. EST.