Ty Gibbs’ strong showing in the ARCA Menards Series East in 2020 was enough to earn him Bounty Rookie of the Year honors for 2020. But just as it was a year ago, the East season was all about Sam Mayer.
The 17-year-old from Franklin, Wisconsin, won five of the six races on a reduced ARCA Menards Series East schedule in 2020 for his second consecutive series championship. On top of that, Mayer won the Sioux Chief Showdown, a 10-race series within the ARCA Menards schedule designed to bring the best of the ARCA Menards Series, ARCA Menards Series East and West together.
Which means Mayer has won all three championships for which he has contended under the NASCAR banner. And in the 2020 East season, in particular, he left no doubt.
Mayer led the series in wins, poles and laps led. Which is why he swept the series’ yearlong awards beyond Gibbs’ Bounty Rookie of the Year nod.
Valvoline Lap Leader Award: Sam Mayer
Gibbs led an impressive 344 laps in the six East races in 2020, short of Mayer’s mark by 37 laps. The series champion led 381 of his 1,110 laps run in 2020.
Mayer’s most dominant race in terms of laps led came in September when the East Series visited Toledo Speedway in Toledo, Ohio, for the second time in 2020. He led 165 of 200 laps en route to his third win of the year.
Mayer’s next best race in terms of laps led came in the next East event, a 200-lapper at Bristol Motor Speedway in which he led 116 laps. He won that race a few hours after taking his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series checkered flag.
Grant Enfinger, who won the 2015 ARCA Menards Series championship, finished third in the 2020 laps led count for the East Series thanks to his showing in its finale at 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. Enfinger led 175 of the 206 laps before Mayer stole the victory.
Derek Griffith finished fourth in East laps led in 2020 thanks to the 144 circuits he spent up front in the season opener at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
General Tire Victory Bonus: Sam Mayer
This award was decided long before the ARCA Menards Series East reached its season finale in Pensacola.
Mayer won five of the six East races in 2020. And the race he did not win — the June event at Toledo — was a close call.
Gibbs and Mayer had exchanged the lead eight times throughout the Herr’s Potato Chips 200 before the rookie took P1 for good with two laps to go. Gibbs held off Mayer and crossed the finish line ahead of the eventual series champion by 0.242 seconds.
That’s how close Mayer came to sweeping the entire 2020 ARCA Menards East season.
Mayer’s East wins came at New Smyrna, Dover International Speedway, Toledo, Bristol and 5 Flags.
General Tire Pole Award: Sam Mayer
Ironically, the one ARCA Menards Series East race Mayer did not win in 2020 was one of the two in which he started on the General Tire Pole.
In fact, both of Mayer’s General Tire Pole Awards in the East Series in 2020 came at Toledo.
Mayer took the General Tire Pole for the Herr’s Potato Chips 200 in June with a qualifying lap time of 16.014 seconds (112.402 mph) around the half-mile paved oval. He led 21 laps in that race before Gibbs pulled off the aforementioned win.
Mayer returned to the General Tire Pole when the series returned to Toledo for the Royal Truck & Trailer 200 in September. He bested the field with a lap time of 15.914 seconds (113.108 mph).
Gibbs tied Mayer with two General Tire Pole Awards in 2020; the latter wins the yearlong award with a points tiebreaker. Gibbs earned the General Tire Pole at Dover with the top lap time in qualifying, and his General Tire Pole at Bristol came when the lineup was set by points in the absence of qualifying.
Griffith (New Smyrna) and Enfinger (5 Flags) also took one General Tire Pole Award apiece in 2020.