Ryan Blaney Wins the NASCAR Cup Series Debut at Iowa Speedway

    0
    476
    Iowa Speedway, Newton, IA — June 16, 2024

    With the track of Deep Purple’s Highway Star playing in the background, NBC fired off its coverage of the NASCAR Cup Series at Iowa Speedway.

    Located in Newton, Iowa, just outside Des Moines, sits the short track oval measuring 0.875 miles (1.4 km), with 10 degrees of banking in the frontstretch, four degrees in the backstretch, and a progressive banking system utilized from 12 to 14 degrees in the turns. Iowa Speedway will play host to the NASCAR Cup Series for the first time in its existence with this weekend’s Iowa Corn 350 Powered by Ethanol. The Speedway becomes the 176th different track to host a NASCAR Cup Series points-paying race since the inception of the series in 1949.

    Iowa Speedway was built between 2005-2006, by then owner Paul Schlaak of the U.S. Motorsports Entertainment Corporation. International Speedway Corporation purchased the property in 2013, and it is now owned by NASCAR.

    The first race held at Iowa Speedway was an ARCA Menards Series event on October 15, 2006, and the race was won by Steven Wallace, driving for Rusty Wallace Inc., a team owned by his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace.

    The track underwent a partial repave in preparation for this race, with new asphalt being laid in the turns on both ends of the speedway.

    NASCAR Notes

    In a rare move, NASCAR changed the final standings from Sonoma shortly after the event last Sunday. A late caution flag resulted in the race being concluded under the yellow. Per the rule book, once the caution flag is displayed, the field is frozen.

    Kyle Busch was originally credited with a 17th-place finish. Busch was caught up in the melee that brought out the yellow flag and limped his car around to the finish. After a review, it was determined Busch was running in 12th position at the time of the caution.

    Good news for Martin Truex Jr., who ran out of gas on the final lap. No! NASCAR rules also state you must remain running to the finish in order to receive the benefit of the caution. Truex did not, stopping just short of the checkered flag.

    With his second-place finish at Sonoma on June 9th, 2024, Michael McDowell, driver of the No. 34 NASCAR Ford Mustang Dark Horse, joined an elite (and somewhat niche) group of Cup Series drivers. In fact, McDowell can proudly say that he’s part of the “All 40” club – that is, he’s officially been credited when a finish in every single position from 40th to first.

    The silly season continues to spin. Martin Truex announced he is retiring from “full-time” competition at the end of the 2024 season. He will stay on with Joe Gibbs Racing in an advisor position and may run the occasional event, including the Daytona 500 next season.

    Truex remarked in a press conference at Iowa. “It’s been incredible. It’s been a hell of a ride. I’m excited about the future, and I’m not really sure what that looks like yet…”

    “It’s the right time for me. I’ve thought about it a lot for the last few seasons – just waited for that feeling in my mind to be positive, like ‘This is OK, I’m good, and I want to do something else,’” Truex said. “In the 21 years that I’ve done this, I’ve never missed a race. I’ve never missed a practice. I’ve never been late for anything. I’ve never missed an appearance. You live your life by a schedule that somebody makes for you, and it’s just time for me to make my own schedule.

    “That’s really what it boils down to. I want to go do the things I want to do, and I don’t want anyone to tell me when I can and when I can’t do those things. I still love racing. I’m still going to race some – I don’t know what, when, how, why – but I feel very fortunate to be in this position to make this decision.”

    Today’s Race

    Including the IowaCorn 350 Powered by Ethanol there are 10 races remaining in the Cup Series regular season. Nine different winners have secured their spot in the Playoffs by virtue of a victory. At the other end of the postseason outlook, 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace holds the 16th and final transfer spot into the Playoffs by a slim eight-point lead over Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch.

    The nine drivers that have earned a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs by virtue of wins this season are Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick, Brad Keselowski, Daniel Suárez, and Austin Cindric. Seven spots are still up for grabs in the hunt for the championship.

    The seven drivers currently occupying the remaining postseason spots on points are Martin Truex Jr. (+128 points ahead of the Playoff cutoff), Ty Gibbs (+86 points ahead of the cutoff), Ross Chastain (+73),  Alex Bowman (+65), Ryan Blaney (+64), Chris Buescher (+32) and Bubba Wallace (+8).

    2024 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Outlook – Drivers Without Wins This Season

    Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts +/- Cutoff
    10 Martin Truex Jr. 508 0 2 2 128
    11 Ty Gibbs 466 0 2 2 86
    12 Ross Chastain 453 0 1 1 73
    13 Alex Bowman 445 0 0 0 65
    14 Ryan Blaney 444 0 1 1 64
    15 Chris Buescher 412 0 2 2 32
    16 Bubba Wallace 388 0 0 0 8
    17 Kyle Busch 380 0 0 0 -8
    18 Joey Logano 372 0 1 1 -16
    19 Chase Briscoe 361 0 0 0 -27
    20 Michael McDowell 295 0 1 1 -93
    21 Todd Gilliland 289 0 0 0 -99
    22 Carson Hocevar 279 0 0 0 -109
    23 Josh Berry 269 0 0 0 -119
    24 Noah Gragson 266 0 0 0 -122
    25 Erik Jones 250 0 0 0 -138

    The driver sitting just above the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line

    Currently, four drivers that made the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs last season are below the cutline this year – Kyle Busch (17th, -8 points), Joey Logano (18th, -16 points), Michael McDowell (20th, -93 points), and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (27th, -152 points).

    The 350 laps of today’s race comprise 306.25 miles of racing. Stages are 70/140/140 laps. the fuel window is approximately 100 laps. However, critics are predicting tire life to be somewhere in the 50-lap range.

    Kyle Larson sits on the pole for today’s race. Ryan Blaney will line up beside him on the front row.

    Stage One

    Kyle Larson(5) led the first lap. Ryan Blaney(12) touched the left rear fender of Larson’s car into turns three and four. Coming out of the corner, Blaney passed Larson to lead lap two. Back in the pack, Corey LaJoie spun out of turn two on lap three, bringing out the caution.

    Something that many individuals in the press corps have predicted will be displayed frequently tonight.

    On the restart, Larson did not allow Blaney to get close as he pulled away in turn one, and Chase Briscoe(14) grabbed the second spot briefly. Tyler Reddick(45) and Kyle Busch(8) completed the top five.

    The lead swapping stopped as the top drivers settled in for a test of how the tires would react to a green flag. A.J. Allmendinger(16) let everyone know the answer to that question when he cut down a right front tire on lap 51.

    Most of the crews brought their drivers to pit road for new Goodyear tires, as the restart would come with just over ten laps to go in the Stage. Brad Keselowski(6) and Daniel Suarez(99) stayed out to improve their positions in the hopes of grabbing Stage points, they led the field back to the green flag.

    Larson and Blaney quickly moved back to the front with Blaney making a pass for the lead. He held off Larson for the Stage Win. Suarez finished third, Keselowski 8th.

    Stage One Results

    POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
    1 12 Ryan Blaney* 10
    2 5 Kyle Larson 9
    3 99 Daniel Suarez 8
    4 24 William Byron 7
    5 4 Josh Berry* 6
    6 22 Joey Logano* 5
    7 7 Corey LaJoie 4
    8 6 Brad Keselowski* 6
    9 9 Chase Elliott 2
    10 8 Kyle Busch 1

    *Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

    Stage Two

    With the yellow flag so close to the end of Stage One, the leaders stayed on the track. With the exception of Suarez and Keselowski, who did not stop earlier.

    Just after the green flag dropped, Noah Gragson(10) got sideways and made contact with John Hunter Nemechek(42) and Ty Gibbs. All three we able to control their cars and got them headed straight. However, NASCAR had anticipated a big crash and threw the yellow immediately. It was a lucky break for Larson, who complained of a tire issue and was able to pit under the caution.

    The crew found nothing wrong with the tires except where they had rubbed against the fenders while they were heating up.

    Some pundits had blamed Goodyear for the tire issues and criticized NASCAR for not addressing it with the sole supplier to the series. Goodyear provides tire pressure recommendations to all teams. In the spirit of good competition, NASCAR does not mandate adherence to those recommendations. Low tire pressure at the start of a run increases traction but may have an adverse effect on the life of the tire.

    Back to green flag racing, Blaney, Joey Logano(22), William Byron(24), Chase Elliott(9), and Josh Berry(4) were the new leaders of the pack.

    Blaney led as drivers swapped positions behind him. Teams seem to have figured out the tire pressure specs, as Stage Two saw most drivers run a full fuel cycle. Some tire failures occurred but drivers were able to navigate to pit road for fresh rubber. After 88 laps out front, Blaney came to pit road for service.

    Daniel Hemric had a tire to go down and he brushed the wall. Again, NASCAR was quick to the yellow flag. This caution caused major havoc in the running order as it occurred in the middle of green flag stops.

    A large number of cars took the wave around to get back on the same lap. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (47) benefited from the timing of the caution and led the pack on the restart. Byron, Larson, and Elliott formed the first two rows coming to the green flag. With laps running down in the Stage, it was a wild scramble for positions when the green flag waved.

    With five laps to go to the green and white checkered flag at the end of Stage Two. Larson, Berry, Elliott, Blaney, and Bubba Wallace(23) held the top five positions and kept them to the flag.

    Results of Stage Two

    POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
    1 5 Kyle Larson 10
    2 4 Josh Berry* 9
    3 9 Chase Elliott 8
    4 12 Ryan Blaney* 7
    5 23 Bubba Wallace 6
    6 11 Denny Hamlin 5
    7 17 Chris Buescher* 4
    8 38 Todd Gilliland* 3
    9 6 Brad Keselowski* 2
    10 51 Justin Haley 1

    *Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

    The Final Stage

    With varied pit stop strategies, the front of the field changes with every caution. Chris Buescher(17), Keselowski, Gragson, Berry, and Larson led the pack back to the restart.

    As they come around to complete the first lap back under green, four wide racing between Keselowski, Larson, Suarez, and Wallace results in Larson getting squeezed as they come to the flag stand. Larson spins and collects Denny Hamlin(11). Minor damage to Hamlin’s car is repairable. Larson has a bent two link and alignment issues. He spends significant time in the pits getting repairs from his crew. Larson ultimately returned to the track but was well out of contention for the win. A bad break for undoubtedly the fastest car in the field. However, his persistence allowed him to log more laps than Kyle Bush. Moving up one spot in the final results.

    Buescher and Berry swap the lead back and forth. Every spot behind them is contended for as drivers fight to position themselves for another long green flag run. Berry eventually pulls away as Byron closes on the battle and passes Buescher for the second spot.

    The Ford Mustang Dark Horse of Josh Berry leads at Iowa Speedway / NASCAR Photo

    Buescher continues to fade as Blaney and Elliott pass to drop the #17 to the fifth position. The right front tire on Buescher’s car went away, and he scrapped the wall through turn one bringing out the caution with 91 laps to go.

    The leaders pitted. Blaney, Logano, and Stenhouse were the first three off the pit road after taking only two tires. Byron, Berry, and Elliott followed after taking four new Goodyears. Blaney and Logano, the Penske teammates, pulled away until Stenhouse and Byron slipped in between them.

    Kyle Busch developed an issue after beating and banging in three-wide racing. After coming to the pits for a tire change, the crew sent him to the garage for repair of an apparent issue with the suspension. Ultimately the issues proved terminal and

    Blaney continued to lead with the order shuffled behind him. Byron was challenging for the top spot, with Elliott, Stenhouse, and Logano trying to keep pace.

    Blaney continued to maintain the lead as Byron and Elliott kept pace. With 10 laps to go, the interval was just under a second to Byron in second and Elliott just over a second behind in third. However, Blaney was struggling with lapped traffic.

    Blaney negotiated the lappers better than his pursuers and built the advantage. With five to go, Elliott was too far back, and Byron was charging to within a half second.

    Blaney has been in this position before at St. Louis, only to run out of gas taking the white flag. This time he got the job done, locking up a playoff spot and assuring him a chance to defend the title he won last year. The victory by another non-winner to date this season trimmed the available postseason opening to six.

    It was also the third win in the last five points-paying races for Ford Performance. Two out of the last three for Team Penske. Add to that Joey Logano’s win in the All-Star Race and the Blue Oval in getting on a roll at the right time of the season.

    NASCAR Playoff Standing

    RANK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
    1 Kyle Larson 564 In Win (3)
    2 Denny Hamlin 548 In Win (3)
    3 William Byron 530 In Win (3)
    4 Christopher Bell 498 In Win (2)
    5 Chase Elliott 581 In Win
    6 Tyler Reddick 527 In Win
    7 Brad Keselowski* 493 In Win
    8 Ryan Blaney* 484 In Win
    9 Daniel Suarez 344 In Win
    10 Austin Cindric* 327 In Win
    11 Martin Truex Jr. 530 +127
    12 Ross Chastain 479 +76
    13 Ty Gibbs 478 +75
    14 Alex Bowman 474 +71
    15 Chris Buescher* 431 +28
    16 Bubba Wallace 408 +5
    NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
    17 Joey Logano* 403 -5
    18 Kyle Busch 382 -26
    19 Chase Briscoe* 370 -38
    20 Todd Gilliland* 314 -94
    21 Michael McDowell* 309 -99
    22 Carson Hocevar 302 -106
    23 Josh Berry* 299 -109
    24 Noah Gragson* 287 -121
    25 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 268 -140

    *Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

    Results of the Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway

    POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
    1 12 Ryan Blaney 350
    2 24 William Byron 0.716 350
    3 9 Chase Elliott 2.147 350
    4 20 Christopher Bell 4.881 350
    5 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 11.586 350
    6 22 Joey Logano 12.264 350
    7 4 Josh Berry 12.876 350
    8 48 Alex Bowman 13.121 350
    9 99 Daniel Suarez 15.669 350
    10 6 Brad Keselowski 15.780 350
    11 1 Ross Chastain 17.395 350
    12 38 Todd Gilliland 17.471 350
    13 51 Justin Haley 22.560 350
    14 77 Carson Hocevar 23.918 350
    15 19 Martin Truex Jr. -1 349
    16 10 Noah Gragson -1 349
    17 23 Bubba Wallace -1 349
    18 17 Chris Buescher -1 349
    19 3 Austin Dillon -1 349
    20 21 Harrison Burton -1 349
    21 7 Corey LaJoie -1 349
    22 45 Tyler Reddick -1 349
    23 34 Michael McDowell -1 349
    24 11 Denny Hamlin -2 348
    25 54 Ty Gibbs -2 348
    26 42 John Hunter Nemechek -2 348
    27 41 Ryan Preece -2 348
    28 14 Chase Briscoe -2 348
    29 31 Daniel Hemric -2 348
    30 2 Austin Cindric -3 347
    31 71 Zane Smith -3 347
    32 43 Erik Jones -3 347
    33 15 Kaz Grala -5 345
    34 5 Kyle Larson -36 314
    35 8 Kyle Busch -78 272
    36 16 AJ Allmendinger -296 54