Blane wins inaugural NASCAR cup race in Iowa

Defending NASCAR Cup champion Ryan Blane picked up his first victory of 2024 in Newton, Iowa, Sunday, thus clinching a spot in the playoffs. The win was assured after Blaney stayed out during a late caution instead of pitting for fuel, which would have cost him several valuable positions down the stretch.



June 17, 2024 - 1:44 PM

Ryan Blaney Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images/TNS

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.