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April 13, 2024

Sam Mayer edges out Ryan Sieg in incredible Xfinity photo finish, banks $100,000 bonus at Texas

In a race decided by less than the length of a Texas hot chili pepper, JR Motorsports driver Sam Mayer pulled off a last-lap pass on veteran Ryan Sieg to claim his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season Saturday in the Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Officially, the margin of victory was 0.002 seconds as Mayer’s No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet and Sieg’s No. 39 RSS Racing Ford crossed the finish line door-to-door, bumper-to-bumper — the cars were so close officials took a brief extra look to formally declare Mayer the winner. The triumph marks Mayer’s first of the year and fifth of his career.

RELATED: Race results | At-track photos

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Sam Mayer: ‘Absolutely unreal’ in photo-finish victory Sam Mayer: ‘Absolutely unreal’ in photo-finish victory

It would have been Sieg’s first win in 342 career starts in the series.

“That’s absolutely unreal,” the 20-year-old Mayer said, shaking his head after climbing out of his car. This team, the amount of adversity we’ve had to fight this entire year so far and to come to a mile-and-a-half that I want to say I’m good at, but it took a lot.

“It took every ounce of me for me to do that today.”

Sieg led 17 of the final 18 laps and raced off to the front on a pair of late-race restarts in the closing 20 laps of the 200-lap race on the 1.5-mile Texas high banks. With nine laps remaining, Sieg held a 1.2-second advantage over Mayer. But Mayer cut into that margin with each lap, trailing by only 0.25 seconds with two laps remaining and then catching Sieg’s car on the back stretch on the final lap. They exchanged the lead briefly, racing door-to-door, and then Sieg pulled alongside as they took the checkered flag in a photo finish — the closest ever for an Xfinity Series race at Texas.

WATCH: Final lap results in photo finish | Sieg on runner-up

“Awe, it sucks,” said an obviously disappointed Sieg, who has two other career runner-up finishes. “We had a really good car. I just got tight, so tried to change my lines, do everything. I saw him coming, and I did all I could do, and at the end, I was just trying to run him up into the wall to try to win the race. We were so close. This sucks.

“I’ve been second before. Too many times. But this is a good thing, means we’re running where we need to be in the top-five.

“Just got to keep fighting, we’re right there, just got to keep it up,” he added. “We’ll have it in Victory Lane here shortly.”

All the late race drama came at the expense of veteran Justin Allgaier, who led a race-best 117 laps and swept both stage victories but ultimately finished third in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. It was disappointing deja vu for Allgaier, who a year ago led a dominating 133 of the 200 laps only to finish fifth.

AJ Allmendinger finished fourth in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet — a huge rally for the perennial championship contender after he missed his pit stall during the Stage 1 caution, which put him back in the field and forced him to race through the field — again.

Reigning Xfinity Series champion Cole Custer, who started from outside the front row, was a top-five car all day and finished fifth in the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Custer now trails championship leader Chandler Smith — who finished 15th — by 19 points in the standings.

Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill finished sixth, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ryan Truex, JR Motorsports’ Sammy Smith, polesitter Jesse Love and Anthony Alfredo, who earned his third top-10 of the season in the Our Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet.

With the win, Mayer not only course-corrects a rough start to the 2024 season – he suffered DNFs in three of the first four races – but he earns the coveted $100,000 prize from Xfinity as the Dash 4 Cash winning driver.

He’ll compete against Sieg, Allgaier and Allmendinger for the big Dash 4 Cash check again next week at Talladega Superspeedway.

MORE: 2024 Xfinity Series schedule | 2024 Xfinity Series standings

It was a rally not just for the driver but for his JR Motorsports team. The perennial championship favorite has struggled early in the 2024 season — its four talented drivers did not earn a top-five until last week at Martinsville. On Saturday, not only did the team — co-owned by Kelley Earnhardt Miller and her brother Dale Earnhardt Jr. — win the race, but all four cars finished in the top 13 and three of the four drivers (also Brandon Jones) led laps.

The Xfinity Series shifts to Talladega for the Ag-Pro 300 on Saturday, April 20 (4 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

NOTE: Post-race inspection in the Texas garage concluded without issue, confirming Mayer as the race winner. The Nos. 9 and 48 each had one lug nut loose, which will result in a monetary fine.