GMS Racing is off to a blazing hot start in their inaugural season racing in the K&N Pro Series East.
A top-five effort at New Smyrna and a dominant victory at Bristol with 15-year-old Sam Mayer behind the wheel has a lot to do with the success for the No. 21 team.
But don’t look past Mardy Lindley, the man atop the pit box who runs the ship and calls the shots.
Lindley, a 47-year-old Taylors, South Carolina, native, was a driver in his earlier years, but has since transitioned to a crew chief role, carving out a niche in the K&N Pro Series. He began crew chiefing in 2012 with Bryan Ortiz with Rev Racing and did so for the next five seasons.
Last season, Lindley focused his efforts in the ARCA Menard’s Series with Zane Smith, who finished second in points and won four races on his way to the Rookie of the Year award, but also ran a select schedule with Mayer in the K&N Pro Series
The two were paired for races at Watkins Glen, Gateway, New Hampshire and Dover in 2018; a short, yet beneficial slate that Lindley says helped accelerate their relationship leading up to this season.
"It definitely helped," he said. "We only ran a select few races with Sam because I knew this thing was coming. We were trying to prepare him for it. Sam got familiar with the cars and knowing what to expect coming into this year for sure."
Expectations are always high with a team like GMS Racing, but for a 15-year-old to mow through the field and earn staggering results, including leading all 150 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway (after setting the track record for qualifying) to kick off his rookie season was an eye opener for most.
Not for Lindley, though.
"I’ve had so much success before but I knew Sam had a lot of speed," he said of their start to 2019. "We kind of had (Bristol) circled on the calendar as we worked with Sam and saw his strong points. We really felt like Bristol was going to be the track he’d really excel at. Josh Berry has been driver coaching for him for a little bit, and he’s the one that called it. He said ‘he’s gonna win Bristol,’ I said ‘you think so?’ and he called it. Not really a big surprise, but it just shows you how talented and young these kids are."
Racing-Reference: Mardy Lindley Career Crew Chief Statistics
The age gap between the two is a whopping 32 years. But Mayer’s ability to learn and apply makes for a cohesive relationship between the veteran and youngster.
"There’s such a big age gap," he said. "He’s still a kid. He’s very teachable. That’s the bright spot with Sam. He listens well and he seems to take in everything you’re trying to teach him and he applies it to what he’s doing. He’s got some really good people around him that are trying to help him. For 15-years-old – I keep having to say ‘man, he’s only 15-years-old, he’s only 15-years-old’- and what he’s done is awesome. I just kind of think of where I was at 15-years-old and it was nowhere even close."
From the outside, expectations may have rose following Bristol. But Lindley says coming into 2019 and leaving Bristol, the goals for 2019 haven’t changed within the No. 21 camp.
"I’m not going to put my finger on one specific thing," he said. "We have goals to improve every week and we’ll see where the cards fall when it’s all over with. He is still young, he still has a lot to learn and he is going to these race tracks for the very first time. He’s gotta deal with all that. We’re preparing him the best we can. I’d say our expectations are to improve each and every week and keep going forward, not looking back."
Lindley, Mayer and the No. 21 team will look to win their second and possibly third races of the season next weekend at South Boston Speedway for the Who’sYourDriver.org Twin 100s.