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Christopher Bell after winning a 2019 Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway. (Getty Photo)

NASCAR Cup Series At Iowa: What To Watch For

NEWTON, Iowa — For the first time in its 76-year history, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway.

About Iowa Speedway

Sunday will be the first time the Cup Series graces the Newton, Iowa facility, but it isn’t the first time NASCAR has gone there.

Built in 2006, Iowa used to be a staple on both the Craftsman Truck Series and Xfinity Series schedules. The ARCA Menards Series began racing at Iowa that year, before Trucks and Xfinity began in 2009 and had at least one stop at the 30,000-seat capacity each year through 2019. Both series had planned to visit Iowa in 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in NASCAR pivoting away from the track. ARCA has continued to race at Iowa each season.

Meanwhile, International Speedway Corp. purchased Iowa in 2013, meaning it’s a NASCAR-owned property.

Ten drivers in Sunday’s Cup Series field have Xfinity victories at Iowa, headlined by three apiece from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski. Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe won races in 2019.

Back On Top

After getting his playoff waiver approved for missing the Coca-Cola 600, Kyle Larson didn’t waste any time. He secured his third victory of the season at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway last week, which vaulted him back on top in driver’s points. Larson led the points before missing Charlotte and dropping to third.

Surely, the Hendrick Motorsports driver got some help. Denny Hamlin, who held the points lead entering Sonoma, blew an engine just two laps into the race and finished last, earning just one point.

Larson now leads teammate Chase Elliott by 14 points. Elliott has quietly pieced together a strong season.

9 JUNE 2024 During the TOYOTA SAVE MART 350 at SONOMA RACEWAY in SONOMA, CA  (HHP/ Tim Parks)
Kyle Larson during his win at Sonoma Raceway. (HHP/ Tim Parks)

10 To Go: Who Needs A Win?

Sunday marks just 10 races remaining in the regular season, which means a heightened urgency toward drivers winning their way into the playoffs. Nine drivers have already secured victories, meaning seven playoff spots remain.

So, who needs to make it to victory lane?

The retiring Martin Truex Jr. is fifth in driver’s points and is first among winless drivers. Ty Gibbs, who’s searching for his first career victory, is second among winless drivers and eighth overall. Ross Chastain, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher and Bubba Wallace are all winless but inside the playoff picture.

Austin Cindric is 18th in points, but because of his win at World Wide Technology Raceway, he’s in the playoffs. Above him in driver’s points are Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Chase Briscoe, but all sit on the outside looking in of the playoffs.

Spring Slumps

After winning three of the first eight races, including the Daytona 500, William Byron has leveled off. Though he finished third at Charlotte, Byron’s finished 15th or worse in four of the last six races. Last week at Sonoma, he finished 30th — his third result of 30th or worse this season.

Blaney’s struggles certainly aren’t for a lack of effort, and in recent cases — speed. Though he finished seventh last week at Sonoma, it came after three finishes of 24th or worse. After he seemingly had a win locked down at WWTR, Blaney suddenly ran out of fuel with two laps to go. He crashed in the two previous points-paying races.

Daniel Suarez has just two top 10s this season, and fortunately for him, one resulted in a trip to victory lane. Since finishing fifth at Texas Motor Speedway, Suarez hasn’t finished better than 14th — a seven-race span. He’s dropped to 19th in points, but the Atlanta Motor Speedway triumph has him locked into the playoffs.

Race Information

Sunday’s Iowa Corn 350 Powered by Ethanol is set for 7 p.m. ET on USA Network. It’s the first of 20 races on the NBC portion of the schedule. FOX ended its portion of the schedule up 1% on the season, bouncing back from a Daytona 500 rainout. 

The 350-lapper has stage breaks scheduled after laps 70 and 210. The purse is $8,881,630.