Home / 5 Points To Ponder / 5 Points to Ponder: Digesting Excellent Iowa Racing For NASCAR’s XFINITY, Truck Series
(Photo: Christian Koelle)

5 Points to Ponder: Digesting Excellent Iowa Racing For NASCAR’s XFINITY, Truck Series

ONE: Johnny Sauter Remains Truck Series Championship Favorite

When Brett Moffitt and Johnny Sauter got together at Iowa Speedway early Saturday for their media availability, Moffitt was asked about his outlook for the upcoming race that night and what his goals were. The answer was simple.

“Beat him (Sauter),” Moffitt said with a chuckle. “He’s set the bar. It’s certainly the goal. They’ve had really fast trucks all year. We need to go execute.”

And that’s exactly what Moffitt did Saturday night. Leading a race-high 76 laps, the driver of the No. 16 Toyota simply dominated the final stage and outlasted an aggressive, last-lap crossover move by Noah Gragson to score his second 2018 victory and his first at his home track. Meanwhile, Sauter ended up fifth after struggling with the handling on his No. 21 Chevrolet.

“This was a frustrating day, to say the least,” Sauter said of his eighth top five in nine races this season. “We just had no grip whatsoever, but our truck was fast, so if we had been able to figure out how to tighten it up, I think we would have been contending for the win. With that being said, there’s nothing bad about a top five and this team is continuing to show our strength.”

You can say that again. Despite the “frustrating” race, Sauter and crew chief Joe Shear Jr. managed to make the most out of an ill-handling truck in the form of yet another top-five run. He still holds a solid 71-point lead in the championship standings, though much of that advantage will be wiped out when the series enters its playoffs at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in a couple months.

But when a driver is disappointed by a fifth-place finish on a day where the handling was never to their liking, it’s bad news for the rest of the competition.

TWO: The NASCAR XFINITY Series title race is still wide open

When the checkered flag dropped over the XFINITY Series race at Iowa Speedway, Justin Allgaier became the first series regular to score multiple wins this season. And while his victory at Dover doesn’t count toward his playoff eligibility, no issues in post-race inspection means he’s added a win that helps solidify his spot in the championship battle.

But the thing that became quite evident, especially in the standalone event devoid of Cup drivers, is that there is no real, clear favorite to win the championship. Obviously, you have to point at JR Motorsports as a strong organization that will likely have at least three of its teams in the playoffs, and there’s also Christopher Bell, who put on an impressive show, racing from the rear of the field to finish runner-up on Sunday. You can’t, however, count out drivers like Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Brandon Jones and even Ryan Truex, who have yet to find their way to Victory Lane this season.

The bottom line is that there are several drivers who have already shown they’re capable of fighting for the title. And when the series gets its playoffs going, it will be something to watch and see who can rise to the top and assert themselves when it matters most.

THREE: Kaz Grala Deserves A Full-Time XFINITY Series Ride

After scoring a single win during the 2017 Camping World Truck Series campaign, Kaz Grala made the jump to the XFINITY Series to run the No. 24 Ford for JGL Racing. Scheduled to run the full season, the 19-year-old made just 10 starts before parting ways with the organization, following a disappointing 37th-place finish at Dover. Aside from a fourth-place finish in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, Grala failed to crack the top 10 and had been steadily dropping in the point standings.

Fast forward to the next race at Charlotte after an XFINITY Series off-weekend and Grala emerged with a brand new team in Fury Race Cars. In less than two weeks, the organization managed to prepare and field a car that was competitive on race day each week.

The guaranteed four-race deal was enough to buy Grala time on the track to figure out what his next move will be. His finishes in those four events? 10th, 16th, 12th and 10th, giving him an average finish of 12th. By comparison, his stint with JGL to opening the season brought a dismal 22nd-place average result, and that includes the fourth-place run at Daytona.

“This was a heck of a way to end our four-race stretch with Fury Race Cars,” Grala said after the Iowa race. “You can’t be disappointed any day that you’re in the top 10, especially in the situation we’re in, so I’m pretty excited about that. I really hope I have some good news to announce soon in regard to more races this season.”

Sure, an average finish outside the top 10 isn’t exactly burning up the track and turning heads, but when you consider the circumstances around the team’s formation and how quickly it was competitive, it’s easy to see why Grala deserves the chance to continue to run the remainder of the season. The question is whether he can find a ride or the financial backing to do so.

FOUR: Iowa Speedway Should Have a Cup Series Race

Every time the NASCAR Camping World Truck or XFINITY series teams head to Iowa Speedway, the conversation manages to turn toward whether the track should host the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. While there are plenty of detractors that would rather let the two lower series continue to shine at the 7/8ths-mile oval, many are also very outspoken about their preference to see Cup teams descend on the small track, essentially nestled in an Iowa cornfield.

Once again, a pair of fantastic races at Iowa over the weekend heightened that conversation. A track that features three- and sometimes even four-wide racing, not just on restarts but also throughout the events didn’t disappoint. In fact, both the Truck and XFINITY series races featured close-quarters racing all through the field and victories by Moffitt and Allgaier that came down to late battles before the checkered flag flew.

Need a visual to prove my point? Done.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s incredibly important the the Truck and XFINITY series maintain as many of their standalone weekends as possible; however, it would be nice to see at least one Cup race at the 7/8-mile track, even if it’s just a single-season experiment that doesn’t happen again.

With all of that said, though, it’s hard to look at the stands for the weekend’s Truck and XFINITY series events and expect NASCAR to jump at the opportunity to bring Cup to the track. If fans want more racing at Iowa Speedway, they’ve got to show they support the racing that currently visits the track. Otherwise, there’s a slim-to-none chance Cup ever races there.

FIVE: This Weekend Brings an Opportunity For a New Face in Cup Series Victory Lane

After taking Father’s Day weekend off, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is back in action at Sonoma Raceway. In one of just two road course races the series sees each season, this weekend marks a great opportunity for someone who hasn’t won this season to do so.

One name that stands out to me is Aric Almirola. Sure, he hasn’t exactly been spectacular in recent years, posting a 23.3 average finish in six starts at the track. But given his substantial performance improvement this season since joining Stewart-Haas Racing immediately puts him into the conversation.

Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman share the distinction of having the best average finish at Sonoma among the drivers who have not won yet this season at 12.5. Clint Bowyer actually leads the way in average finish at 10.7 but already has two wins to his credit this year.

Of course, any road course conversation wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t add AJ Allmendinger to the mix. Obviously, Watkins Glen has been kinder to the JTG-Daugherty Racing driver than Sonoma has, but he has a knack for being in the right place to capitalize.

The point is that for fans looking for someone to change up who’s standing in Victory Lane, this weekend may just be the opportunity they’ve been looking for. And a victory by a driver who’s winless in 2018 has the ability to shake up the back of the standings near the playoff cutoff line too.

About Beth Lunkenheimer

Beth Lunkenheimer
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 13-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.

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8 comments

  1. Iowa is now the new Nashville….they’ll keep running Trucks and Busch there until the track shuts down from lack of support…

  2. The Truck race was OK, but the Xfinity race was a total bore. There was no passing for the lead and no POSSIBILITY of passing for the lead. When a mediocre talent like Allagaier cannot be passed, it proves that either the competition is totally incompetent or that aero-push is even more of a factor in NXS than in Cup racing. NASCAR should just give up. It is neither sport nor entertainment. Just hang up the “Out of Business” sign and go away. The insistence of media shills like FS that the racing is great just exposes the gap between those who make their living off NASCAR and the rest of the public.

    BTW, the two best road racers in Cup are also the two drivers who have dominated the Series this season. Look for Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch to be in VL again this weekend. Amirola has never been a factor in a road race and Allmendinger will run out of talent and wreck, per usual.

    • Edit to say “Allgaier.”

      • The weather on Father’s Day was great, too good to sit inside and watch a parade on TV. Evidently the people in Iowa thought the same thing about going to the track.

  3. Two best races of the season – WITHOUT THE CUP DRIVERS!! Cup drivers should stay the hell out of truck and Infiniiy races !!

  4. The Truck race was OK, but the Xfinity race was a total bore. No passing for the lead – not even the POSSIBILITY of passing for the lead. When a mediocre talent like Allgaier cannot be passed, it only proves that the either the competition is completely incompetent or that aero-push is even a bigger factor in NXS than it is in Cup racing. This weekend showed why NASCAR should just post the “Out of Business” sign and go away.

    BTW, the best road racers in NASCAR are also the two drivers dominating the Cup Series. Expect to see Harvick or Kyle Busch in VL again this weekend. Aric Amirola has never been a factor in a road race and Allmedinger will run out of talent and wreck, as usual.

  5. I can’t remember the last time I watched two races that were as entertaining as those at Iowa this weekend. bravo for the Cup drivers NOT showing up and allowing the regulars to show how entertaining they are without a cup driver sucking up all the TV time, trophies and prize money. This is definitely the type of track Nascar need more of on the schedule, but NOT at the expense of staling the thunder from the Trucks and Xfinity teams. There are plenty of short tracks Nascar could use for the Cup teams. More standalone Truck/Xfinity weekends would go a long way to creating more interest in t those races.

    • Forget Nascar and short tracks. They are NEVER going to give up a date at one of the tracks they own for some short track that they don’t. NEVER.