Ryan Blaney wins inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway

Ryan Blaney does a burnout after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, June 16, 2024, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

By JOHN BOHNENKAMP Associated Press

NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — Ryan Blaney had his concerns heading into the final laps Sunday night in the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway.

The problem was he didn’t hear his crew chief’s reassurance.

There was no need to worry, though, with the defending series champion holding on for his first victory of the season and a spot in the playoffs.

Blaney seemed in control of the race, but was worried about fuel a couple of weeks after running out on the final lap while leading at World Wide Technology Raceway. It’s why crew chief Jonathan Hassler came on the radio with less than 10 laps to go in this race to let him know he was good on fuel.

“I don’t even remember him saying that,” Blaney said. “I figured we were (OK). But I don’t remember him saying that.”

“I wanted to make sure he knew the whole situation,” Hassler said. “Sometimes I forget he doesn’t know what I know. So I just try to communicate as much as I can so he knows what’s going on.”

Blaney led four times for a career-high 201 laps, finishing 0.716 seconds ahead of William Byron for his 11th Cup victory.

“Ryan and those guys were really good,” Byron said. “He had a really good car. He was up front, contending a lot.”

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.

It was the decision to take two tires, on a weekend when tire wear was a concern for the Cup Series and Xfinity Series cars, that worried Hassler.

“There were not a lot of guys on two tires,” Hassler said. “At some point those guys are going to be a little bit better than you are. So, yeah, really nervous.”

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.

“I think, as a whole company, we do a good job of these places we go to for the first time,” said Blaney, who also has wins at the track in the Xfinity and Truck series.

But Blaney, who started on the outside of the front row, admitted he had concerns about how good his car would be for the race.

“Friday, I didn’t feel very good,” he said. “I wasn’t very confident in the speed in our car. And we really went to work — we got a lot better qualifying to the race and got better through the night tonight. And I think we’re great at some points of the night. The last few runs were phenomenal. “

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.


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