What were you doing when you were fifteen years old?
For those of a certain age, most were in high school learning American history and scientific formulas, reading novels such as 1984 and maybe even trying some algebra. There were notes passed back and forth, Friday night football games, school dances, and maybe even a part-time job in the summer.
If you were 15 and went to a stock car race at the local speedway, chances are you were watching men in their late thirties and their forties racing cars they built themselves in their own garage. And, chances are, if you wanted to go into the pits you were turned away because few – if any – tracks let 15-year-olds into the pit area.
Fast forward to 2019. Things have changed. Dramatically.
Last season, 15-year-old Sam Mayer – who already had several years of racing experience on his resume – made his first start at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race. He qualified eighth and finished eleventh in his first appearance on a track bigger than a mile.
“It was really intimidating before I went out, just looking at it and how long the straightaways were,” Mayer said about the long straightaways on the 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval. “Once I got out there and got up to speed I really enjoyed it. It was really fast. Turn one is really fun and turns three and four are really fun too. I hadn’t ever been that fast before in my career as a racecar driver so that was pretty cool.”
Mayer returns to the track, located in Madison, Illinois just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis, for Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series Day to Day Coffee 150, part of a same day double-header with the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. With that experience in his hip pocket, Mayer returns to the track with increased expectations.
“We did pretty good last year,” he said. “We have a little bit to work on. Me and Marty (Lindley, crew chief) are going to work on some stuff and get a little bit better and maybe go for a win.”
Mayer’s increased expectations aren’t just the over-confident bluster of a teenager. He’s proven to be a threat to win every time he takes to the race track in 2019. He scored his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series win earlier in the season at Bristol Motor Speedway and he’s racked up three top-five finishes in the four ARCA Menards Series races he’s been in, including a runner-up finish at the demanding high-banked Salem Speedway half-mile.
Mayer’s team is no stranger to success either; GMS Racing earned the 2015 ARCA title with Grant Enfinger behind the wheel and followed it the next season with a Gander Trucks title with Johnny Sauter. Currently GMS Racing fields Mayer’s K&N Pro Series and ARCA Menards Series effort, has teams in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series for defending series champion Brett Moffitt and defending ARCA champion Sheldon Creed, and a team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for John Hunter Nemechek.
The high expectations of he and his team don’t mean there isn’t a little time for some sight-seeing when the team goes to major tourist destinations such as St. Louis. There’s a lot to choose from, and Mayer himself my not be the one choosing where they go to take in those sights.
“My dad is really into looking at stuff and being a tourist,” he laughed. “I am more relaxed and chill but he gets pretty excited about seeing some of the things in the places we go. I will see it and be like ‘oh, that’s cool’. When I go to a race, I want to go be at the racetrack. We are going to go see the Arch. I am really looking forward to it but probably not as much as he is. It’s a pretty cool thing though. How did they get it to be that tall, you know?”
Practice for the ARCA Menards Series Day to Day Coffee 150 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is scheduled from 12:35 pm ET/11:35 pm CT and 2:30 pm ET/1:30 pm CT; General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 5:30 pm ET/4:30 pm CT, and the green flag will fall on the 120 lap/150-mile race at 7:30 pm ET/6:30 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live track updates, and live chat throughout all on-track activities at ARCAracing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCAracing.com/login. For ticket information, call 618-215-8888 or log on to www.wwtraceway.com.