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ASHLEY ASKS…… Sam Mayer

As one of the first members of the new Driver’s Edge Development program put together by JR Motorsports and GMS Racing, Sam Mayer‘s schedule is filled with diversity for the 2019 in an effort to get him experience.

After kicking off the year with a solid fourth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at New Smyrna Speedway, he will be running the ARCA Menards Racing Series event at 5 Flags Speedway this weekend.

As he prepared for the weekend ahead, Mayer shared his thoughts entering the ARCA Pennscola 200 and more.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts heading into this weekend’s ARCA race?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

SAM MAYER: I’m really excited. I think the team has a really good car put together. We went out and tested last week, and I feel like we were really strong. I mean, we feel like we have a little bit to work on, like little stuff like the track bar, but overall I feel like we have a really good car and can contend for probably a good top-five finish.

PS: What’s the biggest challenge of 5 Flags Speedway compared to other short tracks?

SAM: Definitely the tire wear is a big thing. I mean, obviously the Snowball Derby is just one of those races that are really grueling and you have to be on your toes, and save your stuff. I think the ARCA race will be the same way. You have to just save your stuff until the break and you’re able to get new tires, because you only get six tires. So it’s going to be about saving your tires and your stuff, but having the track position to pounce when the race is over.

PS: You were able to run a pair of ARCA races last season. What’s the biggest thing you learned during those that you feel will benefit you heading into this weekend?

SAM: I think overall this season is more competitive than last season, not to say last year was competitive at all. It was a really intense season last year, but this year this is so many big names coming into the sport and I feel like last year being in the series having that experience will help a lot. But the competition is going to be really high here, so we just have to do everything we can to get a good finish.

PS: New Smyrna was a mix of ups and downs for you, with the K&N Pro Series and the late model. What are your thoughts as you look back on that?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

SAM: The K&N Race was very good. I feel like we could’ve finished a little bit better if we would’ve made a bigger adjustment on the first break when we pitted, but honestly that’s my fault in just trying to learn and figuring out what happens to the car over a long run.

But the Super Late Model – I don’t really know what to say about that. It’s really unfortunate we didn’t get the finishes we wanted. We were going down there to win, just wasn’t able to make it happen. We were chasing the track all week. It’s just one of those deals where you just got to move on.

PS: Your schedule is pretty diverse this season. How much of a challenge is it going from one vehicle to the other?

SAM: The K&N and ARCA car are really similar, so going back and forth between those two isn’t too drastic; it’s really just horsepower. But when we go super late model racing and TransAm Racing, that’s completely different and that’s just more or less for experience. So I don’t really take those for competitive, but rather just for learning, like road courses and stuff like that in the bigger cars. The Super Late Model is more so for the competitiveness of the series.

PS: Looking at your schedule, what track and series are you most excited for?

SAM: I’m really excited for the K&N Series this year, just because the competition is really high and I feel like we have a shot to win a lot of races and the championship. The Truck race – I’m really excited for that with Bristol and Martinsville and those short tracks over in the south. I’m just really excited for the experience I am going to get this year.

PS: I was just going to ask actually, but what does it mean for you to get that chance to move up in your racing career to the Gander Outdoor Truck Series?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

SAM: It’s just getting experience this year. We’re going for a K&N Championship, but everything else we’re doing this year is just for pure experience and I’m just really excited due to having a great GMS Racing team behind me with Marty Lindley as a crew chief. He’s a big name in racing and he just knows how to win, so we’re going out here and going for that.

PS: As a young driver, how beneficial is it to be surrounded by the veterans at both GMS and JRM for advice with the Drivers Edge Development program?

SAM: It’s huge just have to everyone else like that’s older and more knowledgeable than I am. Like I said, I am young and still learning, so it’s just a big thing to hear the little things that they’re saying, whether it’s sway-bar inside the car or on-track stuff.

It’s really great to have a lot of mentors in the sport as there’s so many people that are helping me that have been in the sport for a long time, like Lorin Ranier. He’s a huge mentor for me because he knows so much about the sport.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Blake Jones Earns First Career ARCA Victory at Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala. — ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards rookie Blake Jones gave Cunningham Motorsports two straight wins at Talladega Superspeedway, taking the lead from teammate Tom Hessert on the final lap of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 Friday night.

“This is a dream come true,” said the 18-year-old Jones. “To come here and win at Talladega in just my second restrictor plate track is unbelievable.”

Jones took the lead on the final restart of the race, surviving four cautions and a red flag to pull in front of his Cunningham Motorsports teammate when Hessert ran out of gas after taking the green and white flag together. Venturini Motorsports driver Cody Coughlin, in the No. 55 JEGS Toyota, was second after winning the Menards Pole Award while Cole Powell was third in the No. 58 Lira Motorsports Ford.

Brandon Jones, in the Tide-Menards Toyota, finished fourth with Russ Dugger trailing in fifth.

“We had been working on restarts all day trying to get a jump on him (Hessert),” Jones said. “I don’t know if we would have been able to get him on that one or not, but when he dropped down I just had to hang in there.”

Jones, driving the No. 22 Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips Dodge, will graduate high school in Tennessee next week. He said Crew Chief Paul Andrews played a big role in the win.

“I can’t think him enough for the car he gave me,” Jones said. “It’s just unreal.”

The race went 79 laps, three laps more than the advertised 76-lap distance when a caution came out for a Josh Williams spin just after Hessert had taken the white flag. The extra laps proved to be too much for Hessert, who ran out of gas.

Matt Kurzejewski finished sixth in the Costy’s Energy Service Chevrolet and Scott Sheldon seventh in the Allegiant Travel Chevrolet. Sarah Cornett-Ching placed a career-best eighth in the Race101.net Chevrolet while Bo LeMastus also gained a career-best finish ninth in the Crosley-T&T Construction-Glad Performance Dodge. Tyler Audie finished a career-best 10th in the Audie Expo Toyota.

It was a big point day for SCOTT Rookie Challenge point leader David Levine, who finished 11th in the Gary Yeomans-Ford Performance-TraqGear Ford. Buster Graham was 12th in the Louisiana Tech Ford. The top three drivers in the point standings entering the race – and four of the top five – had trouble during the race. Grant Enfinger crashed with 10 laps to go. Austin Wayne Self, who was second, crashed on lap 53, and Josh Williams finished 18th after the spin on lap 76. Hessert finished 15th.

Self and Brad Smith were involved in a crash that caused the first caution. Smith was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation after a hard hit into the Talladega safer barrier. Will Kimmel, Enfinger and Clay Campbell were involved in a late-race crash on the backstretch as well.

“We were trying to make a run back to the front,” Enfinger said. “I feel like we had the car to do it in. It’s disappointing.”

Powell climbed 18 spots, from 21st to third.

“Great run,” Powell said. “We didn’t start our day off like we wanted to, but we never gave up all day. I’m ecstatic about third place.”

Hessert led the most laps, 60, and Coughlin led 11 laps and Jones eight. The race took one hour and 40 minutes to complete.

The ARCA Racing Series next races at Toledo Speedway, the home track for the series. The Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care will be May 17. The complete results from Talladega can be viewed below.

  1. Blake Jones/Sevierville TN           Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips Dodge
  2. Cody Coughlin/Delaware OH      JEGS Toyota
  3. Cole Powell/Mount Brydges Ontario       Gary Yeomans Ford
  4. Brandon Jones/Atlanta GA          Tide-Menards Toyota
  5. Russ Dugger/Owasso OK              Finney-Gosselin Racing Chevrolet
  6. Matt Kurzejewski/Mansfield PA               Costy’s Energy Service Chevrolet
  7. Scott Sheldon/Las Vegas NV       Allegiant Travel Chevrolet
  8. Sarah Cornett-Ching/Summerland BC     Race101.net Chevrolet
  9. Bo LeMastus/Louisville KY            Crosley Brands-T&T Constr-Glad Precision Dodge
  10. Tyler Audie/Orlando FL Audie Expo-NP Properties Toyota
  11. David Levine/Highland Park IL    Ford Performance-Traqgear-Gary Yeomans Ford
  12. Buster Graham/Lafayette LA      Louisiana Tech Ford
  13. Mark Thompson/Cartersville GA               Phoenix Air Toyota
  14. Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN         101 Ranch Records-Menards Toyota
  15. Tom Hessert/Cherry Hill NJ          Barbera’s Autoland Dodge
  16. Terry Jones/Amherstburg Ontario           JAAR Excavating Toyota
  17. Ed Pompa/Ballston Spa NY           Milton CAT-Double H Ranch Chevrolet
  18. Josh Williams/Port Charlotte FL Southwest Florida Cable Construction Ford
  19. Chris Bailey/South Park PA          CA Bailey Excavating-Notch Gear Ford
  20. Thomas Praytor/Mobile AL          DK-LOK Ford
  21. Andy Seuss/Salisbury NC              O.B. Builders Chevrolet
  22. Bobby Hamilton Jr./Greenbrier TN           Nitroforce Industries Titan 1000 Dodge
  23. George Cushman/Waterville NY               Cushman Truck Repair Chevrolet
  24. Scott Edwards/Ormond Beach FL              Carter 2 Motorsports Dodge
  25. James Swanson/Clarksboro NJ  Kan Do Chevrolet
  26. Bobby Gerhart/Lebanon PA        Lucas Oil-MAV TV Chevrolet
  27. Barry Fitzgerald/Sykesville MD   Colonial Bus Ford
  28. Grant Enfinger/Fairhope AL        Alamo-BeasleyAllen.com Chevrolet
  29. Will Kimmel/Sellersburg IN          Kimmel Racing Ford
  30. Clay Campbell/Martinsville VA   Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet
  31. Brad Smith/Shelby Township MI               Radon.com Ford
  32. Austin Wayne Self/Austin TX      AM Technical Solutions-Pirate Energy Ford
  33. Eric Caudell/Piedmont OK            Carter 2 Motorsports Dodge
  34. Josh White/Charleston WV         LRSolutions-Hixson Construction Chevrolet
  35. Tim Viens/Daytona Beach FL       Racedaysponsor.com Ford