Racing: Blaney dominates Iowa race

Published 11:05 pm Sunday, June 16, 2024

By JOHN BOHNENKAMP Associated Press

NEWTON, Iowa  — Ryan Blaney dominated the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway on Sunday night for his first victory of the season and a spot in the playoffs.

Blaney led four times for a career-high 201 laps, finishing 0.716 seconds ahead of William Byron for his 11th Cup victory. The defending series champion came into the race 12th in the standings.

Blaney regained the lead on Lap 263 after taking just two tires on a caution-flag pit stop. He led the rest of the way, getting through lapped traffic as Byron tried to close.

Blaney, whose mother, Lisa, is from Chariton, Iowa, won in front of a sellout crowd of an estimated 40,000 fans that included 80 of his friends and family.

It was fitting the first Cup Series race at the 0.875-mile track would go to a Team Penske driver — Penske cars have won seven IndyCar Series races and three NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the track.

Chase Elliott was third. Christopher Bell, who had to start from the back of the field in a backup car after crashing during practice Friday, was fourth. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who like Blaney took two tires on the final pit stop, finished fifth.

Joey Logano finished sixth. Rookie Josh Berry, who led 32 laps, was seventh, followed by Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Brad Keselowski.

Kyle Larson, the series points leader and pole-sitter for the race, led 81 laps and won the second stage, but hit the wall on Lap 219 after contact from behind by Suarez. Larson had surged into the middle of a three-wide jam, with Suarez to his left and Keselowski to his right, when the contact happened. Larson finished 34th in the 36-car field.

Getting a Cup Series race was an accomplishment for the track, located 40 miles from Des Moines. The facility opened in 2006 and was on the schedules of NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and Truck Series from 2009-19. NASCAR has owned the track since 2013.