Blaney Dominates Inaugural Cup Series Race At Iowa


Ryan Blaney celebrates with a burnout after winning Sunday night at Iowa Speedway. (HHP/Andrew Coppley photo)

NEWTON, Iowa — This time, there was no unpleasant surprise waiting for Ryan Blaney near the finish line of a NASCAR Cup Series race.

Grabbing the lead courtesy of crew chief Jonathan Hassler’s two-tire call under the final caution of Sunday night’s Iowa Corn 350, Blaney led the final 88 laps of the inaugural Cup Series race at the seven-eighths-mile Iowa Speedway.

In front of a large contingent of family and friends, the reigning series champion crossed the finish line 0.716 seconds ahead of runner-up William Byron, who was racing on four new tires after a pit stop under caution for Chris Buescher’s accident on lap 260.

The victory was Blaney’s first of the season and the 11th of his career. Blaney now has won at Iowa Speedway in all three NASCAR national series, having triumphed in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2012 and the Xfinity Series in 2015.

All told, the race winner led four times for 201 of 350 laps on a track that was repaved in the bottom two lanes in the corners.

“What a cool way to win here. This place means a lot to me and means a lot to my mom (Lisa, from Chariton, Iowa),” said Blaney, who was leading June 2 at World Wide Technology Raceway outside St. Louis before running out of fuel on the white-flag lap.

“We had a lot of people here tonight cheering us on, so they willed us to that one. Overall, I really appreciate the whole (No. 12 team). I mean, our car was really fast all night and we got a little bit better through the night, and two tires was a good call there.

“I didn’t know how well I was going to hold on. I started to struggle a little bit at the end but had enough to hang on. I’m super proud of the effort.”

Byron wasn’t surprised Blaney won the race on two fresh tires, given the quality of the Team Penske driver’s No. 12 Ford.

“No, he had a really good car, so he was up front and contending a lot, and him and the 5 (pole winner Kyle Larson) were really good,” Byron said. “So, we were just a step off of that, you know?

“I feel like I just needed to turn the center just a hair better and still kind of maintain the long run. Proud of the effort. It was a really good night, and I feel like we can learn from this and build from it to be a little bit better.”

In a race that featured eight cautions for 49 laps, Chase Elliott finished third, followed by Christopher Bell, who started from the rear of the field in a backup car after blowing a right front tire and crashing in Friday’s practice.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came home fifth, with Joey Logano, Josh Berry, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, and Brad Keselowski completing the top 10.

The restart after the second stage break changed the entire dynamic of the race. Larson had just taken the green/checkered flag to claim his eighth stage victory of the season.

But on lap 220, one circuit after the final stage went green for the first time, contact from Suarez’s Chevrolet sent Larson’s Camaro spinning into the outside wall on the frontstretch, pinching Denny Hamlin’s Toyota into the barrier in the process.

Larson’s crew eventually repaired the wounded machine, but not before the 2021 champion had lost 31 laps in the garage. Larson finished 34th, 36 laps down and lost the series lead to Elliott, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.

Larson, who led 80 laps on Sunday before the accident that waylaid him, trails Elliott by eight points with nine races left in the regular season.

Next up for the NASCAR Cup Series is the June 23 USA Today 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Coverage of the event is slated for 2:30 p.m. ET on USA, the Performance Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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