Sam Mayer has been walking the walk all season.
So he is more than qualified to talk the talk ahead of Sunday’s 2020 ARCA Menards Series East finale at 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.
Mayer will clinch his second consecutive East championship when he fires up his No. 21 Chevrolet and rolls it off the starting grid, even before the Pensacola 200 Presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions goes green. The 17-year-old is under no pressure thanks to his 26-point lead over Ty Gibbs in the ARCA Menards Series East championship points standings.
This is déjà vu for Mayer, who won last season’s East title when all he had to do was start the finale at Dover International Speedway. He led all but two laps in that race, and he plans to end the 2020 season in a similarly dominant fashion.
“I think when the team has less pressure and I have less pressure, we perform a little bit better,” said Mayer. “I think that’s going to be the case this year. I think we’ll go out and dominate just because I feel like we have a really good idea of what to do at Pensacola, especially setup-wise. Strategy-wise, too, because [the track] wears out tires a lot.
“I think we’re going to be really good. I think we’re going to compete for a win. Obviously there’s a lot of good cars. I think there will be a five-car battle for the win. But I think we’ll be the ones on top.”
This level of confidence is understandable for the driver who has won four of the five races on an ARCA Menards Series East schedule that was abbreviated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayer finished second to Gibbs in the only East race he has not won in 2020.
Thanks to the success of Mayer’s team, Chevrolet has already clinched the 2020 ARCA Menards Series East manufacturer’s title. Maury Gallagher will also lock up the 2020 ARCA Menards Series East owner’s title when Mayer rolls off the grid to start Sunday’s race at 5 Flags.
“It’s really going to be no different than what we’ve done in the past,” said Mayer on his team’s plan for the season finale. “All year we’ve been winning races left and right. There’s no point in changing it the last week of the year. We’re just going to go out there and try to win it. We have no other goal, because we’ve already done all our goals for the year and win the championship.”
With his second-place finish at Memphis International Raceway last month, Mayer clinched the 2020 Sioux Chief Showdown championship.
Hopefully he has saved a place next to that award in what is an increasingly full trophy case.
Until Friday, the Pensacola 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions at 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, was scheduled to take place Saturday.
Mother Nature had other plans.
Due to the effects of Hurricane Delta, the ARCA Menards Series East finale was postponed to Sunday. The start time of 3 p.m. CT / 4 p.m. ET was preserved despite the postponement.
Sam Mayer’s championship celebration will have to wait a day.
ARCA Menards East Finale At 5 Flags Pushed To Sunday
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) October 9, 2020
The updated race day schedule includes a 40-minute qualifying session starting at 12:30 p.m. CT. The field for Sunday’s race will be set based on lap times during that session.
Plenty left for Ty Gibbs
Gibbs is locked into second place behind the soon-to-be-champion Mayer in the ARCA Menards Series East points standings, but the 18-year-old can still steal some awards in the season finale.
Mayer and Gibbs are tied with two General Tire Pole Awards each. Should either earn the General Tire Pole at 5 Flags, he would lock up the 2020 General Tire Pole Award.
Gibbs, who already has clinched the ARCA Menards Series East Bounty Rookie of the Year award for 2020, is still a contender for the Valvoline Lap Leader Award.
Mayer enters the season finale having led 350 laps to Gibbs’ 344.
Grant Enfinger’s return
Welcome back to ARCA Menards racing, Grant Enfinger. And welcome back to 5 Flags Speedway.
The NASCAR Gander Outdoors & RV Truck Series regular and 2015 ARCA Menards Series champion is spending his off weekend from the Truck Series near where he grew up in Fairhope, Alabama. He will drive the No. 77 Champion Power Equipment/Breland Homes Ford on Sunday.
“I grew up racing at Five Flags, so I’m extremely excited about coming home,” said Enginger. “It just worked out. We’d been talking about this for a while, if it was going to work out, we were going to do it. Fortunate enough, it lined up for us and we can go down there and have some fun.”
🔙 Grant Enfinger Returns
📲 Hailie Deegan Gets The Call
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) October 7, 2020
Enfinger is among the notable challengers to Mayer and Gibbs in Sunday’s race. Another is Derek Griffith, who like Enfinger will drive for Chad Bryant Racing at 5 Flags. Griffith, who will pilot the No. 22 Original Gourmet Lollipops Ford, has six top 10s in seven ARCA Menards Series starts and two top 10s in a pair of East starts.
Jesse Love, the ARCA Menards Series West points leader who will make his second East start of the season Sunday, also will be a factor driving for Venturini Motorsports.
– While Mayer will lock up the championship once he rolls from the grid, and Gibbs is comfortably locked into second, every other position inside the top five in the standings is up for grabs at 5 Flags. Nick Sanchez leads Mason Diaz by one point for third, while Parker Retzlaff is just three points behind Sanchez in fifth.
– In an ARCA Menards Series East season truncated by the global pandemic to just six races, 14 drivers have managed to earn at least one top five finish, and 22 drivers have earned at least one top 10 finish after five races.
– Former Snowball Derby winner Dave Mader III will make his second career East start in the Pensacola 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions. Mader won the Derby in 1978 before going on to win four consecutive NASCAR All-American Challenge Series titles from 1985-88. He previous East start came earlier in the season at Bristol, a combination event with the ARCA Menards Series.
– Daniel Dye will make his return to the series driving for Ben Kennedy Racing. Dye’s last start came in the season opener at New Smyrna.