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Ryan Blaney wins the first NASCAR Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway

NEWTON, Iowa – Ryan Blaney was concerned as he entered the final laps of the first NASCAR Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway on Sunday night.

The problem was that he didn’t hear the reassurance from his crew chief.

There were no worries, however, as the defending series champions held on for their first win of the season and a spot in the playoffs.

Blaney appeared to have the race under control but had fuel concerns a few weeks after running out on the final lap while leading at World Wide Technology Raceway. That’s why crew chief Jonathan Hassler came on the radio in this race, with less than ten laps to go, to let him know he was on good fuel.

“I don’t even remember him saying that,” Blaney said. “I thought 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 that he doesn’t know what I know. So I just try to communicate as much as possible so he knows what’s going on.

Blaney led four times for a career-high 201 laps and finished 0.716 seconds ahead of William Byron for his 11th Cup victory.

“Ryan and those guys were really good,” Byron said. “He had a very good car. He was at the front and had a lot of fight.”

Blaney regained the lead on lap 263 after taking just two tires during a caution flag pit stop. He led the rest of the way, passing busy traffic as Byron tried to approach.

It was the decision to go with two tires, on a weekend when tire wear was an issue for the Cup Series and Xfinity Series cars, that concerned Hassler.

“There weren’t many guys on two tires,” Hassler said. “At some point those guys are going to be a little bit better than you. So yeah, really nervous.”

Blaney, whose mother, Lisa, is from Chariton, Iowa, won in front of a sold-out crowd of an estimated 40,000 fans, including 80 of his friends and family.

It became fitting that 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 company as a whole we’re doing a good job in the places we’re going for the first time,” said Blaney, who also has track wins in the Xfinity and Truck series.

But Blaney, who started on the outside of the front row, admitted he was concerned about how good his car would be for the race.

“I wasn’t feeling too good on Friday,” he said. “I didn’t have much confidence in the speed of our car. And we really went to work – we got a much better qualifying for the race and got better tonight during the night. And I think we’re great at some points in the evening. The last few runs have been phenomenal. ”

Chase Elliott finished third. Christopher Bell, who had to start from the back of the field in a spare car after crashing during practice on Friday, finished fourth. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who like Blaney took two tires at the final pit stop, finished fifth.

Joey Logano finished sixth. Rookie Josh Berry, who led 32 laps, was seventh, followed by Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Brad Keselowski.

Kyle Larson, the race’s points leader and polesitter, led 81 laps and won the second stage, but hit the wall on lap 219 after contact from behind by Suarez. Larson was in the middle of a three-wide jam, with Suarez to his left and Keselowski to his right, when the contact occurred. Larson finished 34th in the 36-car field.

Making a Cup Series race was an achievement for the track, located 40 miles from Des Moines. The facility opened in 2006 and was on the schedules of NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and Truck Series from 2009 to 2019. NASCAR has owned the circuit since 2013.

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AP NASCAR: https://apnews.com/hub/nascar-racing