Speed Sport Iowa Xfinity2
Christopher Bell celebrates a 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Iowa Speedway. (Ray Hague photo)

Iowa Presents New Challenge For Cup Series Drivers

NEWTON, Iowa — The race for a dwindling number of NASCAR Cup Series Playoff spots will take a new turn on Sunday when drivers line up for the Iowa Corn 350 Powered by Ethanol at Iowa Speedway.

NASCAR’s top series will compete at the 0.875-mile short track for the first time, though more than a handful of participants in Sunday’s race have raced at Iowa in the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.


The driver with the most significant advantage on Sunday may be Christopher Bell, who participated in a Goodyear tire test at the partially repaved track two days after winning the rain-shortened May 26 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bell also posted back-to-back Xfinity Series wins at Iowa in July of 2018 and June of 2019. A month after the second of those two victories, Bell finished second to Chase Briscoe at the Newton, Iowa, speedway after leading 234 of the 250 laps and sweeping the first two stages of the final NASCAR race there before this weekend.

Under the circumstances, Bell is eminently qualified to provide an assessment of the way the track will race when NASCAR’s premier series visits for the first time.

“Iowa has always been one of my favorites, that’s for sure,” Bell said. “I’m excited to get a Cup race there…

“The repave made it a whole new race track. It adds a lot of grip to the track. Iowa was a place that was a low-grip track before, and you could move around all over the place and really pass guys.

“I’m a little bit worried now that the pace is going to be really fast, and it’s going to be harder to pass, but the speeds are going to be tremendous—that’s for sure—when we come back and race.”

Kyle Larson, winner of the most recent Cup Series race at Sonoma, and Brad Keselowski also participated in the tire test. Keselowski cited one significant improvement with the repaving project, which added new asphalt to the bottom two lanes.

“It used to have this really wicked tunnel bump down in (turns) one and two,” Keselowski said. “Now that’s been kind of taken care of, which is nice, because the Next Gen car doesn’t really play well with bumps, kind of like an IndyCar.

“But I think it’ll make the car more raceable.”

Bell and Larson don’t need victories at Iowa, given that both are solidly in the playoffs with multiple wins this season. Keselowski, who won the first Xfinity Series race at Iowa in 2009, punched his playoff ticket with a triumph at Darlington.

The same can’t be said for the Cup Series’ active two-time champions, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Both are just outside the playoff bubble, with Busch eight points behind Bubba Wallace (the last driver currently in a playoff-eligible position) and Logano another eight points behind Busch.

With Austin Cindric nabbing a playoff spot by virtue of his June 2 win at World Wide Technology Raceway, seven spots are left with just 10 races remaining in the regular season.

Iowa may be the perfect prescription for Logano, who has a penchant for conquering new territory. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford won the first Busch Light Clash at the L.A. Coliseum (2022), the first race on Bristol Dirt (2021), the inaugural Cup event at WWT Raceway (2022), and the first NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (second overall) after a complete repave (2024).

“I don’t know exactly what it is,” Logano said. “It’s obviously our whole team does a really good job at anticipating what a race will be like or what we’re going to need in the car without any history.

“We do a great job anticipating, whether that’s from just years of racing or… I don’t know what else it could be.”

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