On a day where veteran Justin Allgaier dominated, teammate Sam Mayer captured the main spotlight and the delight of his home crowd with his first NASCAR Xfinity Series career victory in the 14th annual running of the Henry 180 at Road America on Saturday, July 29.
The 20-year-old Mayer from Franklin, Wisconsin, led the final two of 49 over-scheduled laps in an event that was dominated by teammate Allgaier, but marred with late caution periods and incidents that sent the event into two overtime attempts. During the second and final overtime attempt, Mayer capitalized in a battle with Allgaier, Sage Karam and Parker Kligerman to move into the lead for the first time prior to the final lap. With the lead in his possession, Mayer smoothly navigated his way around his home track for a final time and fended off Kligerman to triumph for the first time in his 71st career start in the Xfinity Series.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, July 28, AJ Allmendinger notched his second Xfinity pole of the 2023 season after posting a pole-winning lap at 111.606 mph in 130.574 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Cole Custer, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 111.352 mph in 130.872 seconds.
Prior to the event, several names that included Kyle Weatherman, Josh Berry, Joe Graf Jr., Ryan Sieg and Ryan Ellis dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective entries. Daniel Hemric and Alex Labbe also dropped to the rear of the field due to engine change to their respective entries while Brandon Jones, rookie Sammy Smith and Jeremy Clements started at the rear of the field in backup entries.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Allmendinger rocketed ahead with the lead entering the first turn while the field behind jostled for positions amid two stacked lanes. The field continued to jostle for positions through Turns 2 to 4 before entering a long straightaway prior to a braking zone in Turn 5 as Allmendinger maintained the lead. As Custer and Allgaier battled for the runner-up spot through Turns 6 and 7, Allmendinger started to extend his advantage and muscle away from the pack entering Turns 8 to 10. Following another series of turns from the Kink in Turn 11, Canada Corner in Turn 12 and towards Turns 13 and 14 before entering the long uphill climb to the frontstretch, Allmendinger proceeded to lead the first lap.
By the second lap, Allmendinger extended his advantage to nearly three seconds over runner-up Allgaier followed by Custer while Sam Mayer and Riley Herbst battled for fourth.
Through the first five scheduled laps, Allmendinger continued to lead by less than four-tenths of a second over a hard-charging Allgaier while third-place Custer trailed by eight-tenths of a second in his No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang. Behind, Herbst and Mayer were still in the top five while John Hunter Nemechek, Sage Karam, Kaz Grala, Sheldon Creed and Connor Mosack were in the top 10. By then, Austin Hill, coming off his victory at Pocono Raceway, was in 11th ahead of Parker Kligerman, Brett Moffitt, rookie Chandler Smith and rookie Sammy Smith while Josh Bilicki, Daniel Hemric, Josh Williams, Jeb Burton and Josh Berry occupied the top 20.
Not long after and still during the fifth lap, the battle for the lead ignited as Allgaier gained a run and overtook Allmendinger entering the braking zone in Turn 5. Custer followed suit in the runner-up spot while Allmendinger fell back to third. Custer would then settle within close quarters of Allgaier’s rear bumper in his attempt to gain the lead, but the latter did not relent as he proceeded to lead the following lap.
Two laps later, Custer, who continued to stalk Allgaier, attempted to make a move beneath Allgaier entering Turn 6. Allgaier, however, fought back while running the outside lane before gaining the upper lane entering Turn 7. Custer then tried to feign a move on Allgaier for another lead attempt entering Turn 8, but Allgaier kept his No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro out in front with the top spot. By then, Allmendinger was trailing the two leaders by more than two seconds while Herbst and Mayer remained in the top five.
Then on the ninth lap, the first caution period of the event flew when Katherine Legge stalled her car in between Turns 5 and 6. The caution period for Legge’s issue served as the competition caution planned for Lap 10 as Allgaier was scored the lead ahead of Custer, Herbst, Mayer and Allmendinger while Nemechek, Karam, Grala, Mosack and Austin Hill were scored in the top 10.
During the competition caution period, the entire lead lap field led by Allgaier pitted for a non-competitive pit service.
When the race proceeded under green on Lap 12, where Allgaier and Allmendinger occupied the front row, Allgaier fended off Allmendinger through the first turn to retain the lead as Custer drew himself into a side-by-side battle with Allmendinger for the runner-up spot. As the field battled through close-quarters racing from Turns 2 to Turn 5, Allmendinger forced his way into the runner-up spot over Custer, who then quickly blocked Mayer to retain third place, while Allgaier retained the lead. With the field then filing in a long single file line through the remaining nine turns, Allgaier, who led the proceeding lap, started to extend his advantage to nearly a second over Allmendinger while Custer trailed by more than a second.
At the Lap 15 mark, Allgaier was leading by eight-tenths of a second over Allmendinger followed by Custer, who trailed by more than a second, while Sage Karam and Mayer battled dead even for fourth place in front of Nemechek and Herbst. Behind, Grala was in eighth followed by Austin Hill and Mosack while Sammy Smith, Kligerman, Creed, Bilicki, Moffitt, Hemric, Jeb Burton, Chandler Smith, Berry and Alex Labbe were in the top 20.
Six turns later, Custer overtook Allmendinger to reclaim the runner-up spot. By then, Karam, who overtook Mayer in Turn 1, retained the spot followed by Mayer, Nemechek, Herbst and Grala, all of whom battled intensely towards the front, as Allgaier retained the lead.
The following lap, Mayer got loose and briefly went off the course entering Turn 6 as Nemechek overtook him for fifth place. By the time Mayer returned to the track, he fell back to seventh as Herbst also overtook him. Meanwhile, Allgaier stretched his advantage to more than a second over Custer while third-place Allmendinger trailed by more than three seconds.
On Lap 17 and amid a series of on-track battles occurring towards the front, Dexter Stacey spun in Turn 1, but the event remained under green flag conditions as Allgaier extended his advantage to more than three seconds over runner-up Custer and more than four seconds over third-place Allmendinger. By then, Nemechek was up in fourth while Karam was in fifth.
Three laps later and at the Lap 20 mark, the caution flew when Chandler Smith, who was battling Berry for 17th, had parts and pieces flying out beneath his No. 16 Quick Tie Chevrolet Camaro due to a brake rotor failure through the frontstretch. With no alternative option to slow his car, he then steered his car left and off the course to try to scrub speed while veering through the grass before slamming into the wall driver’s side at full speed before his car with the entire left side sheet metal from the car shredded off came to a stop near Turn 1. Despite his event coming to an early end, Smith emerged uninjured. The caution for Smith’s incident served as the concluding period of the first stage segment scheduled for Lap 22 as Allgaier, who had extended his advantage to more than three seconds, claimed his sixth stage victory of the 2023 season. Custer settled in second while Allmendinger, John Hunter Nemechek, Karam, Herbst, Kaz Grala, Austin Hill, Mayer and Sammy Smith were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, the field, led by Allgaier returned to pit road for non-competitive pit service spanning for three minutes.
The second stage started on Lap 24 as Allgaier and Custer occupied the front row. At the start, Allgaier fended off Custer to retain the lead entering Turn 1 before pulling ahead entering Turns 2 and 3. Then through Turn 3, trouble ignited as Herbst got bumped by Nemechek as Herbst spun, which caused the entire field to scatter and Austin Hill to go off the course, while Ryan Ellis also spun and collided with Herbst. With the field then jostling amid two lanes entering the braking zone in Turn 5 before navigating from Turns 6 to 10, the caution returned when Herbst, who came into the event 26 points above the top-12 cutline to make the 2023 Xfinity Series Playoffs, stalled his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang on the course in Turn 3.
During the following restart on Lap 27, Allgaier and Allmendinger dueled for the lead amid a stacked restart before Allmendinger went wide and briefly off the course through Turn 1. This allowed Allgaier to rocket away with the lead followed by Custer and Grala while Allmendinger fell back to fourth in front of Mayer, Karam, Parker Kligerman and Nemechek. As the field fanned out from Turns 3 to 8 with bumping within the field and jostling for positions occurring, Allgaier pulled away from the Custer as Grala, Karam and Allmendinger were in the top five. Then through the Kink corner, Nemechek, who was mired in 10th and was placed in a tight three-wide battle in Turn 5 that involved teammate Connor Mosack, briefly went off the course and dropped to 12th. Nemechek would then go off the course again, this time in the braking zone in Turn 5 during the following lap, as he was strapped in 14th while Allgaier maintained the lead over a hard-charging Custer.
At the Lap 30 mark, Allgaier continued to lead by six-tenths of a second over Custer while third-place Karam trailed in third place by more than three seconds. Karam’s teammate Grala was in fourth followed by Allmendinger while Mayer, Kligerman, Berry, Mosack and Hemric were in the top 10.
A lap later, more trouble struck for Nemechek, who went off the course entering Turn 13 and hit the access road as he plowed through the grass and ripped the front splitter of his No. 20 Mobil 1 Toyota Supra. As Nemechek tried to return to the course, he struggled to steer his car to the right in Turn 14, which caused a hard-charging Austin Hill to go off the course as he was trying to navigate his way around Nemechek, while Herbst spun behind for a second time in Turn 14 as the rest of the field scattered to avoid the carnage. Amid the issues, the caution flag returned as Nemechek’s event came to an end.
With the event restarting for a one-lap shootout to conclude the second stage period, Allgaier retained the lead over Custer as the field fanned out to nearly three lanes entering Turn 1. With Custer following suit in second followed by Karam, Allmendinger, Grala and Kligerman, Allgaier continued to lead through the frontstretch and entering the braking zone in Turn 5. Allgaier remained out in front through Turns 6 to 11 as more battles ensued behind. Despite Custer’s late effort in gaining a run entering Canada Corner in Turn 12, Allgaier did not flinch for the final two turns and proceeded to claim his second Xfinity stage victory of the day and seventh of the year at the second stage’s concluding period on Lap 34. Custer settled in second while Karam, Allmendinger, Mayer, Grala, Berry, Kligerman, Sammy Smith and Josh Bilicki were scored in the top 10.
Following another round of non-competitive pit stops for the entire field that spanned three minutes, the final stage started with nine laps remaining as Allgaier and Custer occupied the front row. At the start, Allgaier rocketed ahead with the lead through the frontstretch and entering Turn 1 while Custer briefly went off the course in Turn 1. This allowed Sage Karam to move into the runner-up spot through Turns 2 and 3 followed by Mayer while Custer fell back to fourth alongside Grala. With the field fanning out to two lanes before settling in a single file line approaching the frontstretch, Allgaier stretched his advantage to more than a second over a three-car battle ensuring between Mayer, Custer and Karam as Mayer received a push from Custer through the frontstretch to move into the runner-up spot. Custer then tried to make his move beneath Mayer through Turns 5 and 6 during the following lap, but the latter retained the spot as Allmendinger tried to join the battle. This, however, allowed Allgaier to muscle ahead as he was leading by more than two seconds.
Then with seven laps remaining, the caution returned for a hard single-car accident involving Alex Labbe, who was running 13th, lost his brakes through the frontstretch and collided head-on into the tire barriers in Turn 1 at full speed. Despite climbing out of his demolished No. 08 Compass Team Schuler Ford Mustang before laying down on the ground, Labbe emerged uninjured as he was slowly escorted to the ambulance and to the infield care center. At the exact timing of Labbe’s wreck, Creed, who endured numerous on-track issues throughout the event, was shown to have sustained a flat right-rear tire on his No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro.
Down to the final four laps of the event, the race restarted under green as Allgaier and Custer occupied the front row ahead of Mayer and Allmendinger. At the start, Allgaier wasted no time launching away from the field as he rocketed away through the first turn while teammate Mayer followed suit in second as he overtook Custer for the spot. With Custer being challenged by Karam for third through Turn 3, Allgaier continued to lead through a long straightaway before entering the braking zone in Turn 5. The braking zone would serve as the site where the caution returned when Berry got loose and made contact with Sammy Smith which caused Smith to turn sideways and collide into the side of Allmendinger’s No. 10 LeafHome Water Solutions Chevrolet Camaro. With both Smith and Allmendinger spinning entering Turn 5, Custer was collected as Smith collided with him as both, including Allmendinger, veered off the right-hand side of the turn while Karam just avoided the incident. The multi-car incident, which damaged Sammy Smith and Allmendinger’s cars while also breaking the rear axle off of Custer’s Mustang, would send the event into overtime.
At the start of the first overtime attempt, where teammates Allgaier and Karam occupied the front row ahead of Mayer and Berry, Allgaier retained the lead through the frontstretch and entering the first turn while Karam settled in second. As Mayer occupied third, Kligerman made his move up to fourth followed by Grala while Berry fell back to sixth. The field continued to jostle and battle dead even for spots around the circuit as Allgaier maintained the lead entering Turn 8. Shortly after, the caution returned and the event was sent into a second overtime attempt when Connor Mosack, who had smoke billowing out of his No. 19 Porter Pipe and Supply Toyota Supra entry and was leaking fluid, came to a stop just off the course in Turn 6. The event would then be placed in a red flag period due to the extensive fluid that spewed on the track from Mosack’s entry.
Once the red flag period was lifted amid a delay that spanned nearly 10 minutes, the start of the second overtime attempt featured Allgaier and Kligerman lining up dead even on the front row ahead of Karm, Berry, Mayer and Grala. At the start, Allgaier received a strong shove from Karam to rocket ahead of Kligerman with the lead through the frontstretch and entering Turn 1. As Allgaier continued to lead Karam through Turns 2 and 3, the field behind fanned out and jostled for spots as Mayer tried to join the battle between the two leaders. Then exiting Turn 5, Allgaier got loose, which allowed Karam to muscle ahead in his No. 24 Carousel Online Toyota Supra with the lead through Turn 6. Then as Mayer, Karam and Allgaier went three wide for the lead through Turns 7 and 8, Allgaier slipped sideways in Turn 8, went off the course and spun as his hopes of winning the race were evaporating.
Back at the front, Karam, who also went wide with Mayer in Turn 8 but managed to keep his car running straight, retained the lead through Turns 9 and 10 with Mayer closing in. Karam then got loose through the Kink, but he maintained the lead as the field approached Canada Corner. Then through Canada Corner, Mayer tried to make a move to Karam’s outside, but he went wide as Karam retained the lead. Just then, Karam went off the course entering Turn 13, which allowed Kligerman to move his No. 48 Spiked Light Coolers Chevrolet Camaro into the lead. Mayer then made slight contact with Kligerman in Turn 14 as he moved his No. 1 Accelerate Pros Talent Chevrolet Camaro into the lead while Karam fell back to fourth.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Mayer, the hometown hero, was leading a four-car breakaway from the field that included Kligerman, Austin Hill and Karam. While leading throughout the 14-turn circuit for a final time, Mayer was able to place a reasonable gap between himself and Kligerman without slipping through the turns and corners. As Kligerman tried to close back towards Mayer’s rear bumper through Turns 13 and 14, the gap was large enough for Kligerman to not draw close to Mayer’s rear bumper as Mayer was able to make the final uphill climb to the finish line and claim his first checkered flag in the Xfinity circuit.
With the victory, Mayer, a two-time ARCA Menards Series East champion in 2019-20, became the fourth first-time winner of the 2023 Xfinity Series season and the 175th competitor overall to win in the Xfinity circuit. He also became the 14th different winner in the series 14-year running at Road America and the sixth to claim a first NASCAR Xfinity triumph at Road America as he recorded the second victory of the season and the 75th overall in the Xfinity circuit for JR Motorsports. The victory was also the first for crew chief Mardy Lindley, a former Craftsman Truck Series crew chief for Kyle Busch Motorsports, in the Xfinity circuit and the first for JRM’s No. 1 entry since teammate Josh Berry won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September 2021.
“Oh my god,” Mayer said on NBC. “It was just about getting track position. We had [the lead] there at the end. I lost it for a second and then, all hell broke loose there at the end. We ended up on top. This team, it’s so special to get that first win and that monkey off your back. It feels so good. I felt it all day, like if I can do this one, I can do anything, and we came here today and did that. All’s well that ends well, I guess.”
Amid the late turn of events, Kligerman settled in a career-best runner-up result while Austin Hill, who emerged as the new leader in the regular-season standings, came home in third place. Sage Karam, who was two laps away from notching his first NASCAR victory, settled in a career-best fourth place while Herbst rallied late to finish fifth.
Berry, Grala, Josh Bilicki, Allmendinger and Brandon Jones finished in the top 10. Notably, Daniel Hemric ended up 11th, Parker Retzlaff ended up as the highest-finishing rookie in 14th and Allgaier fell back to 18th.
There were two lead changes for three different leaders. The race featured eight cautions for 15 laps. In addition, 27 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.
With six Xfinity regular-season events remaining on the schedule, Austin Hill leads the regular-season standings by 14 points over John Hunter Nemechek, 40 over Justin Allgaier and 84 over Cole Custer.
1. Sam Mayer, two laps led
2. Parker Kligerman
3. Austin Hill
4. Sage Karam
5. Riley Herbst
6. Josh Berry
7. Kaz Grala
8. Josh Bilicki
9. AJ Allmendinger, five laps led
10. Brandon Jones
11. Daniel Hemric
12. Jeb Burton
13. Ryan Sieg
14. Parker Retzlaff
15. Brennan Poole
16. Anthony Alfredo
17. Blaine Perkins
18. Justin Allgaier, 42 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner
19. Brad Perez
20. Kyle Weatherman
21. Josh Williams
22. Patrick Emerling
23. Joe Graf Jr.
24. Stanton Barrett
25. Dexter Stacey
26. Sheldon Creed
27. Jeremy Clements
28. Leland Honeyman – OUT, Transmission
29. Connor Mosack – OUT, Rear gear
30. Cole Custer – OUT, Accident
31. Sammy Smith – OUT, Accident
32. Kyle Sieg – OUT, Brakes
33. Alex Labbe – OUT, Accident
34. John Hunter Nemechek – OUT, Accident
35. Ryan Ellis – OUT, Accident
36. Brett Moffitt – OUT, Hub
37. Chandler Smith – OUT, Accident
38. Katherine Legge – OUT
Next on the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ lone visit of the season to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The event is scheduled to occur next Saturday, August 5, at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.