Top-five Stenhouse, rivals talk pavement, passing after Iowa’s Cup debut

By Matt Crider | Staff Writer 

NEWTON, Iowa — By the time Iowa Speedway hosted its first NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday, the track’s surface already had received a major makeover.

There’s new asphalt in the lower lanes of the corners of a track that first hosted the ARCA Menards Series in 2006 before NASCAR’s Xfinity and Craftsman Truck series arrived in 2009.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enjoyed the surface all the way to a fifth-place finish in the Iowa Corn 350.

“I thought the track raced really well for new pavement,” Stenhouse said. “Hopefully we can get more new pavement all the way to the top and maybe we could kind of start running all over this place like they were when the Xfinity Series was last coming here [in 2019]. 

“So I thought they did a great job. I think we were all kind of questioning it and whether you could pass and whatnot, but I felt like the tires gave up a little bit of speed every now and then and cars were better late in the run, early in the run. There’s always things that could be better, but I thought they did a pretty good job.”

Sunday’s effort was just Stenhouse’s second top-five finish of the season, joining Talladega, and his previous best this year on a non-drafting track was 16th at Kansas. He wasn’t sure what the action would be like at Iowa.

“I think we were all nervous about it,” he said. “And then all of a sudden, I felt like watching the Xfinity race and then our race, we were able to pass a lot of race cars, so that was huge and it was pretty fun. So all in all a great weekend.” 

Winner Ryan Blaney said he hopes the Cup Series remains at Iowa for a long time.

“I thought it actually raced pretty good,” Blaney said. “I thought it was pretty racy. We were way up there in that second lane, which essentially kind of made it three lanes because you had the bottom, you could straddle the seam and then you had guys in the full top. 

Ryan blaney crosses the finish line to win the iowa corn 350 on sunday at iowa speedway in newton, iowa. Blaney and other drivers said the track's cup series debut was a success and talked about options for new pavement.
Jerry Jordan/Kickin’ the Tires | Ryan Blaney crosses the finish line to win the Iowa Corn 350 on Sunday in Newton, Iowa.

“So honestly it exceeded my expectations as far as raceability — good cars could pass people and you had different lanes. The crowd tonight was awesome. I mean, packed house — if that doesn’t make you want to come back here, I don’t know what will. So I don’t know if they really need to pave the whole thing. I thought it did a good job tonight, but that’s above my pay grade.” 

Joey Logano finished sixth in the No. 22 Ford.

“It seemed like it was a pretty entertaining race, a lot of different storylines going on there and the place was packed,” Logano said. “The fans showed up, so from the inside it looks pretty good.” 

Christopher Bell wants uniform, aged asphalt in the turns.

“I’m pumped that Cup is at Iowa. Cup deserves to be here; Cup needs to be here,” Bell said. “They need to repave the whole track — repave the whole track or at least all the corners and then give us about 15 years and we’ll have a hell of a racetrack.”

Logano agreed about another paving project.

“At least the rest of the corner,” Logano said. “I don’t know if they need to repave the straightaways. That’s fine if they want to do that, but I would maybe just do the rest of the corner to the wall. And maybe the exits — end it all at the same spot, because it gets kind of funky and wonky. Doesn’t really make much sense the way they did it, but the good thing is it didn’t seem to affect the racing a whole bunch.” 

Kyle Busch finished 35th and retired after running just 272 of the 350 laps. He said his No. 8 Chevrolet of Richard Childress Racing suffered some kind of left-rear suspension damage before losing a power steering belt. He said the track requires a “technical” approach.

“It’s fine, it’s technical. There are some challenges, which is good, you know, with the repave and everything,” Busch said. “It seems like there are a little bit of tire issues but not too terrible.”

Logano detailed the challenges the drivers faced.

“I expected to have a lot of options, and even as it cooled off the bottom kind of came back in a little bit stronger,” Logano said. “It seemed like the top was dominant in the  heat of the day where it was really hard to pass, and then toward the end of the race the bottom came back. The pace is just so fast. That’s one problem it’s got — it’s just got so much speed and grip that it’s hard to to make the moves because you’ve got so much grip. But everybody does and everyone’s so close in speed, but there were options. When there’s cars that are faster, they can pass cars.”

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