LEBANON, Tenn. — With just under 40 laps to go in Saturday’s Tennessee Lottery 250 at Nashville Superspeedway, apparent contact between the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Sam Mayer and No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Ty Gibbs sent the latter sideways.
Gibbs was able to — impressively — save his machine without spinning out completely, but there’s history here.
Cue the emojis.
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) June 25, 2022
The pair of uber-talented teenagers driving for competing organizations with uber-famous team owners came to blows on pit road not even three months ago at Martinsville Speedway, resulting in some scrapes on Mayer’s face and a stern talking-to in the NASCAR hauler not long after.
With ambient temps hovering around 100 degrees at the Tennessee track, perhaps it was too hot to heat things up any further. There were no such fireworks between Gibbs and Mayer on Saturday, despite the fourth- and fifth-place finishers, respectively, parking their cars together on pit road following the race.
In fact, there was a bit of agreement.
“That last run was pretty painful. Obviously, contact with the 54, complete accident, I will say,” Mayer said. “It was just a matter of aerodynamics and packing the air under his spoiler, getting him loose and then unfortunately getting into him in his left front. Not intentional. I feel bad because I did ruin a better run for him. I ruined a better run for myself, too.”
“I’m hoping (he sees it that way as well). He’s gained a lot of knowledge over the last year and a half of running Xfinity just like I did. Racing the 54, obviously, our history. I hate that we call it our history because I really just want to drive race cars no matter who’s out there. I did that move literally all day and never once packed air that hard. So it really was a complete accident.”
Gibbs wasn’t thrilled with the contact, but appeared to completely understand the circumstances and echoed Mayer’s take on what happened almost to a T. It probably also didn’t hurt that he wound up finishing a spot ahead of his counterpart, and neither of them likely had anything for eventual race winner Justin Allgaier, who dominated the afternoon. Later on in the run, Mayer allowed Gibbs to pass him with plenty of space, which did not go unnoticed.
“Got hit there and got taken out, but that’s part of it,” Gibbs said. ” … I did the same thing to the 39 (of Ryan Sieg) and I apologized to him, so it’s just part of it. It’s just racing in general. Just packed air and got me too loose. He was faster at that moment. I feel like we were better than him on the long run, even with the left front damage. We were gonna get back around him probably, but that’s just part of it. It’s just racing. I made my mistakes, just gotta learn from it.
“I feel like it shows something (when he let me by), but again, it’s just part of it. The one thing I’ve learned this year is I’ve gotta mature quickly. We’re both similar ages and just gonna have to learn from it, especially in front of millions of people, it’s hard, but it’s the career we chose.”
As with any incident on the track, this one will be added to both of their memory banks even if it winds up being a minor blip in the potential decades of racing against each other the two prospects have ahead. Retaliation is unlikely for this one, but certainly not off the table.
Apologies go a long way.
“I’m hoping he can move on,” Mayer said. “I will apologize, but unfortunately it’s just one of those deals. I don’t know (if he’ll retaliate). We’ve already gotten yelled at so I don’t think so, but he might and he’ll call it an accident. And it could be. I don’t know. Just unfortunately, racing’s one of those weird things in that sense. Everyone’s gotta bite the bullet one way or another. Obviously, I don’t want to and I want to race clean. I never want to be known as the dirty, aggressive driver, but I just made a mistake. It wasn’t even really a mistake, I just overestimated the move and how it worked.”
The Xfinity Series races next Saturday at Road America with the Henry 180 (2:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio).