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Everything That Happened in the First Ever Cup Race At Iowa Speedway

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What’s Happening?

For the first time in history of the NASCAR Cup Series, the best of the best in stockcar racing headed to the Hawkeye State to take on the Iowa Speedway. Winning the pole on Saturday was none other than Kyle Larson who captured his fourth pole on the year. Other fast drivers included Josh Berry who started third and Brad Keselowski. Heading into the race, it appeared that the Fords had the best overall speed for the weekend.

So, who reigned supreme in the Cup Series debut at Iowa Speedway? Who struggled? Who had fast cars and who got caught up in incidents? Let’s discuss it. Here’s everything that went down in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway.

You Need To Know:

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  • As laid out above, Kyle Larson scored his fourth pole of the 2024 season at Iowa Speedway. So, clearly the number 5 HMS team was plenty fast and ones to watch heading into the race. Other storylines included tire issues. The Goodyear rubber was put through the ringer during yesterday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race and Cup practice on Friday saw a handful of drivers plowing into the wall following tire blowouts. It was important to keep an eye on that issue throughout this race.
  • At the drop of the green flag, Larson led the first 54 laps. Following pit stops, he worked his way back up to the lead before getting overtaken by Ryan Blaney who went on to win the stage. The second stage saw a shuffling with the running order. Larson led early but pitted after feeling a vibration. Blaney led the next 100 or so laps until green flag pit stops. Larson then resumed his lead and went on to win the second stage.
  • Fans, especially in the Hawkeye State, have been clamoring for a Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway since the track opened in 2006. Now, they’ve got it and turnout has been amazing. Tickets sold out within hours of going on sale. Clearly there are passionate fans in Iowa and it’s great that they finally have a Cup race of their own.

Nobody in this race really had a stranglehold on the competition. In the first stage, Larson and Blaney swapped the lead back and forth. It was more of the same in the second stage. And while Kyle Larson had the best car, he didn’t have a monumental advantage over Blaney or anyone else. After his incident to start the final stage, Josh Berry rocketed out front after an intense battle for the lead with fellow Ford driver, Chris Buescher. Buescher then fell down to the fifth position and, with 90 laps to go, he had a right front tire go down. He got into the wall and, lucky for him, the damage was minimal.

During the caution, drivers came down pit road for what could have been their final stops of the race. Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took only right-side tires. Josh Berry, who came off pit road in 4th, took 4 fresh Goodyears. Upon the restart, Berry had a slow jump and ultimately fell down to the back half of the top-10. Blaney resumed the lead with Stenhouse and Logano following from behind.

The Hendrick Motorsports duo of William Byron and Chase Elliott were able to work their way up to the second and third positions respectfully. Initially, Blaney expanded his lead to nearly 3 seconds as he worked his way through lapped traffic. However, towards the end, William Byron slowly but surely started to reel in the 12 of Blaney. With 5 laps to go, Byron cut into Blaney’s lead to six tenths of a second. He was able to hold the 24 at bay, though, as he went on to win the Iowa Corn 350.

This win marked his first of the 2024 season (ending a 17-race winless streak) and it came as he led and impressive nearly 200 laps (a personal race high for Blaney). It also came in front of over 80 Ryan Blaney family members cheering from the grandstands. Congratulations to Ryan Blaney and Team Penske for winning the first ever Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway!

The Layout

Per Bob Pockrass of FOX Sports, the layout for the inaugural Iowa Corn 350 was as follows:

  • Stage 1: 70 Laps
  • Stage 2: 140 Laps
  • Stage 3: 140 Laps

Teams were given a total of 10 sets of tires and it was interesting to see how much the tires fell off in the course of tonight’s race. The fuel window was estimated to be between 100 and 110 laps. Drivers who were forced to start at the rear of the field were Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric who both crashed in Friday’s practice.

Then track is a D shaped trioval that measures out at about 0.875 of a mile, similar to Richmond Raceway.

Spire Motorsports Stack Up

The first caution of the race came at Lap 4 with a spin by Corey Lajoie. As you can see in the replay below, Lajoie’s number 7 Chevy for Spire spun around and gently tagged the wall with the rear end. What ultimately set the incident into motion was a stack up which saw Lajoie get hit from behind by his two teammates in Carson Hocevar and Zane Smith. Lajoie pitted to get some fresh rubber and restarted in the back. He was, however, able to work his way up through the field with his fresh Goodyear rubber.

Tire Issues Claim Allmendinger Again

The second caution of the race fell on Lap 52 when, like yesterday, A. J. Allmendinger had a right front tire go down. The tire failure had him get out of the groove and into the wall. Thankfully, unlike yesterday, the hit wasn’t too hard and he was able to continue.

During the caution laps, many drivers, including the leaders, pitted for fresh rubber. A handful of drivers stayed out but, once the race restarted, fell through the field like a stone.

Blaney Topples Larson In The First Stage

For the first 54 laps of the race, Kyle Larson led. He led over second place Ryan Blaney by 2 seconds at one point and over 3rd place Josh Berry by 10. When the caution came out for an incident involving A. J. Allmendinger, Larson and the other leaders pitted with about 6 drivers staying out. The race restarted with 11 laps left in the stage and Larson made his way back out to the front in a hurry. His lead didn’t last too long this time, however, as he was passed by 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Ryan Blaney.

Blaney went on to win the stage. It was his second stage win of 2024. With it, he was awarded 10 points and 1 playoff point. In the clip below, you can watch Blaney’s stage-winning pass on Larson.

Noah Gragson Escapes Disaster, Kyle Larson Makes An Unscheduled Pit Stop

On Lap 80, NASCAR threw a caution yet again for an incident involving Noah Gragson and John Hunter Nemechek. Watching the replay, Nemechek entered the corner very low under Gragson and couldn’t make his number 42 Dollar Tree Toyota stick on the bottom. He drifted up the track and made contact with Gragson who was then turned. Gragson was able to save his car, somehow, from spinning out completely.

During the caution, Kyle Larson who took the lead from Blaney laps prior relinquished the lead, believing the he was having a tire issue. He came down pit road for a change of tires and restarted on the tail-end of the lead lap. Further inspection saw no damage to the tires which came off his left side. The concern stemmed from contact the 5 and the 12 cars made while battling for the lead at the beginning of the second stage.

Larson Wins Stage 2

The stage kicked off with an intense battle between Stage 1 winner Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson. The two of them made contact before Larson retook the lead from Blaney. However, following a caution for an incident involving Noah Gragson and John Hunter Nemechek, Larson relinquished his lead believing that he was having a left rear tire go down. From there, Blaney inherited the lead. He maintained that lead until Lap 172 when he relinquished the lead to make his green flag pit stop.

A phantom caution came out on Lap 182 after Daniel Hemric got into the wall but was able to keep going at speed. Leader at the time of caution was Brad Keselowski with Bubba Wallace in second. 7 drivers had yet to pit at the moment of caution. Six of the seven pitted during the caution and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. inherited the lead with William Byron filing into second. He didn’t stay there long, however, as he stalled on the restart and Kyle Larson resumed his lead.

The driver of the HendrickCars.com Chevy went on to win the stage with Josh Berry finishing 2nd and Chase Elliott 3rd. This stage win marked Larson’s 8th of 2024. With it he was rewarded 10 points and 1 playoff point.

There were several drivers throughout this stage who had a tire go down. Michael McDowell lost a tire on Lap 114. On Lap 132, Zane Smith pitted with a flat tire. Kyle Busch never had a tire go down in this stage but did pit from 9th after losing the handling of his number 8 RCR Chevy and reporting a worsening vibration. Also losing tires were Ross Chastain on Lap 165 who pitted from 8th and Erik Jones on Lap 174. Thankfully, no cautions came out due to incident over tires and everyone was able to nurse their cars safely back to pit road without major damage.

Larson and Hamlin Collide Again

Earlier in the race, Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin made contact with one another which shot Larson up the track and out of the groove. Cliff Daniels urged Larson to keep a cool head and think of the big picture so Larson let it go. However, the two tangled again to cause the 7th caution of the race on Lap 220. Larson forced a 3-wide situation between Daniel Suarez on the bottom and Denny Hamlin up top. As a result, Suarez got loose and made contact with Larson’s left rear. Larson attempted to save it but rather cut across the nose of Denny Hamlin, sending him head-on into the outside wall. The result of the incident was a bent toe link on the 5 car. You can watch the incident unfold in the video clip below.

Here’s an image of the contact between Larson and Hamlin earlier in the race.

After meeting minimal speed, the 5 car went behind the wall to make some adjustments. He returned to the race on Lap 262, 31 laps off the pace.

Ryan Blaney Captures First Win of 2024

This win marks the 11th of Ryan Blaney’s NASCAR Cup Series career. He dominated the night, especially after Larson had his issues. We at the Daily Downforce would like to congratulate Ryan Blaney once again on this impressive showing.

In The Stands

Modelo Maniac posted this rather humorous picture of what they think of Spire Motorsports following the stack up on Lap 4.

Fans are thrilled that coverage has shifted over to NBC Networks as opposed to FOX. Peter and GreatLuckByron both applauded NBC’s coverage tonight. I concur, the race was well covered!

Aaron has his conspiracy theory that Blaney “stole” the race from Byron with, what? Illegally inflated tires? Preposterous!

It was a headscratcher at first but, yes Tyler, 2 tires ended up being the right strategy in the end.

Conclusion

Well, Daily Downforce readers, what do you make of the inaugural Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway? Do you think it was a good race, average, or just plain bad? Were you surprised by Ryan Blaney’s dominant win? How did your driver fare? Let us know your thoughts and more by commenting on all of our social media platforms!

That does it for our coverage of NASCAR’s debut in the Hawkeye State! Be sure to keep tuning back into DailyDownforce.com for all the latest news, discussion topics, and much, much more in the world of NASCAR. See you next week for our coverage of the race weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway!

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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