A sellout crowd of nearly 60,000 fans stood cheering wildly as the green flag flew to start the Nationwide Series’ inaugural race, the U.S. Cellular 250, at Iowa Speedway Saturday afternoon near the small town of Newton.
With the Cup Series appearing in Pocono this weekend, usual suspects Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick all started in the back as each had other drivers qualify their cars earlier in the day.
Leading the charge to the green was the Roush Fenway Racing 3M Ford, piloted by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., flanked by the No. 12 of Justin Allgaier. The crowd barely had time to sit down before the first of 12 yellow flags flew on lap 3 as the No. 09 of John Wes Townley spun coming out of turn 2.
Brad Keselowski, starting from the 11th position, took the lead on lap 43, a spot he would hold for much of the afternoon. Meanwhile, despite starting from the rear of the field, the familiar No. 18 of Kyle Busch charged hard through the ranks and by lap 80 had assumed the lead.
For the remainder of the event, Busch and Keselowski seemed oblivious of the rest of the field as they battled for the point, each taking a handful of turns on point. While they raced amongst themselves, Edwards slowly and calmly passed car after car, cracking the top 10 at about lap 110, where he continued his climb, although never contended for win.
The final lead change between Busch and Keselowski occurred on lap 242, and a joyous roar from the crowd erupted as Keselowski’s No. 88 finally passed the No. 18, holding on to the lead for the remaining eight laps to take the checkers.
“Everyone likes someone who beats Kyle Busch,” said Keselowski after the race about the fans’ loud reaction as he crossed the finish line.
“I don’t think you can deny a track that puts on racing this good a Cup race,” he continued during a post-race interview. “That’s what NASCAR needs right now – excitement like we had today.”
- Bires captured his third top-10 and second top-five finish this year by posting a fifth-place finish in what was only the third full race he has run this season. Despite Iowa being his 11th start of the season, most of his other efforts this year could be considered start-and-parks.
- Kenny Wallace posted his best Nationwide Series finish to date this year by capturing the seventh spot.
- “I wish they’d all been firsts. That’d certainly be nice,” said Busch when asked about tying a record for first and second-place finishes. “Man, I should be so grateful and so happy to finish second, but I am not, man. When you finish second 12 times in a year, it really gets to ya.” After saying that, Busch apologized to Leffler and McDowell, who were sitting beside him, knowing that they would kill to have a record like that!
- Lagasse Jr., in what was to be his final ride in the No. 11 America’s Incredible Pizza Toyota (a release that has confounded many), finished ninth. With a showing like that, maybe, just maybe, the ones that sent him packing are rethinking their decision.