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Ryan Blaney Dominates Inaugural Cup Series Race at Iowa Speedway

Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade, NKP for Ford Performance

Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney has returned to Victory Lane for the first time in nearly eight months, holding off William Byron to take home the trophy in the inaugural Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway.

The 30-year-old driver had an exceptionally strong car throughout the afternoon in Newton, Iowa on Sunday, leading a staggering 200 of 350 laps, putting together a new personal best of laps led during a single NASCAR Cup Series event.

After leading much of the early portion of Sunday’s 350-lap contest, Blaney returned to the lead with 88 laps to go, courtesy of a two-tire strategy call by crew chief Jonathan Hassler, which got him the track position necessary to hold the race lead.

In the closing laps of the event, though, as pursuers William Byron and Chase Elliott slotted into second and third place, the two Hendrick Motorsports teammates began to slowly reel in the Team Penske driver, cutting the gap down to a margin just over a half-second.

With the assistance of some lap traffic and a racecar at least equal to Byron and Elliott, Blaney was able to maintain the top spot, finishing 0.716 seconds ahead of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro.

“What a cool way to win here, this place means a lot to me, a lot to my Mom and we had a lot of people cheering us on, and overall really appreciate all of the No. 12 boys, our car was really fast all night, and we got better throughout the night,” said Blaney. “Then two tires was a good call there. I didn’t know how well they were going to hold on, I kind of started to struggle a little bit at the end, but had enough to hang on.”

The victory in Sunday’s event at Iowa marks the first NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season for Blaney, who has suffered numerous heartbreaks this season, including running out of gas coming to the white flag at WWT Raceway and giving up the victory to teammate Austin Cindric.

“Makes up a little bit for a couple of weeks ago,” Blaney said after the race.

RACE RESULTS: 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway

William Byron, who spoke on Friday about the need for his No. 24 team to be more consistent, came home in the runner-up position, after spending much of the afternoon running inside the top five and top-10. Byron is one of four drivers to score 10 top-10s in 17 races this season.

Chase Elliott made a late-race charge on teammate Byron for second place but was forced to settle for third place, while Christopher Bell also drove through the pack during the final green-flag run to finish in fourth place.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. rounded out the top-five for JTG Daugherty Racing after crew chief Mike Kelley made a pair of great strategy calls; one to stay out after the mid-cycle caution at Lap 183, and another to take two tires on what ended up being the final pit stop.

Joey Logano came home in sixth place, with Josh Berry – who led 32 laps on the afternoon — in seventh. Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-10 in the inaugural Cup Series event at Iowa Speedway.

Early in the going, Kyle Larson appeared to be the only driver with the raw speed to challenge Blaney and the No. 12 team, but that speed was all for not, when the Chevrolet Camaro got turned on the frontstretch into Denny Hamlin, causing major damage to the No. 5.

Larson led 80 circuits around Iowa Speedway on Sunday, second to only Ryan Blaney, but would ultimately come home 34th, finishing 36 laps off the pace of the race leader.

With that poor finish, Larson will drop to second in the regular-season point standings in the NASCAR Cup Series, falling to just eight markers behind Chase Elliott. Denny Hamlin (-38), William Byron (-54), and  Martin Truex, Jr. (-61) are the current top-five in regular-season points, as the series travels to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next weekend.

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