NASCAR at Iowa results: Reigning champion Ryan Blaney secures first win of 2024 in inaugural Iowa Corn 350

In the most dominant performance of his Cup career, Ryan Blaney led 201 of 350 laps and held off William Byron at the end to win the inaugural Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway. The reigning Cup champion earned his first victory of the 2024 season and the 11th of his Cup career.

After spending much of the first two stages of the race swapping the top spot with Kyle Larson, Blaney would capitalize on a crash by Larson to distinguish himself as the class of the field, pulling away for good after taking two tires on his final pit stop and making his way through lapped traffic efficiently in this final laps, allowing him to fend off the advances of both William Byron and Chase Elliott at the end of the final run.

Iowa Corn 350 unofficial results

  1. #12 - Ryan Blaney
  2. #24 - William Byron
  3. #9 - Chase Elliott
  4. #20 - Christopher Bell
  5. #47 - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  6. #22 - Joey Logano
  7. #4 - Josh Berry (R)
  8. #48 - Alex Bowman
  9. #99 - Daniel Suarez
  10. #6 - Brad Keselowski

Blaney's performance came at a track significant to not only his career, but also to his racing family. As an 18-year-old in September 2012, Blaney earned his first ever NASCAR win at Iowa when he took the checkered flag in his third career Craftsman Truck Series start. Blaney's mother is from the greater Des Moines area, and approximately 80 members of Blaney's extended family were on hand to see the third-generation racer get his first win of 2024 and make up for the gut punch of two weeks ago at Gateway, where Blaney ran out of fuel while leading coming to the white flag.

"What a cool way to win here. This place means a lot to me, it means a lot to my mom, and we had a lot of people here tonight cheering us on, so they willed us to that one," Blaney told NBC Sports. "Overall, I really appreciate the whole 12 boys. I mean, our car was really fast all night, and we got a little bit better through the night. Two tires was a good call there -- I didn't know how well it was gonna hold on, I kind of started to struggle a little bit at the end, but had enough to hang on. ... Makes up a little bit for a couple weeks ago."

With his first victory 17 races into the season, Blaney now formally earns a place on the NASCAR playoffs grid, virtually guaranteeing that he will race for the championship as the 10th different driver to win this season. Blaney will seek to become the first driver to win back-to-back championships in the current playoff format, and the first overall to do so since Jimmie Johnson won five Cup titles in a row from 2006 to 2010.

Splitting the middle goes wrong for Larson

Blaney's run to the checkered flag may have been much more of a challenge had it featured the driver who was his equal for much of the evening: Kyle Larson led five times for 80 laps from the pole and wrestled the lead from Blaney on multiple occasions, but things would go awry for him following his win in Stage 2.

After strategy calls mixed up the front of the field -- Chris Buescher and Todd Gilliland stayed out, while Brad Keselowski and Daniel Suarez took two tires -- Larson attempted an ambitious move on a Lap 219 restart by splitting the middle between Keselowski and Suarez to try and take fourth. But Suarez would slide up on the exit of Turn 4, tagging Larson and sending him sideways and up into Denny Hamlin. Both cars would crash, and Larson suffered heavy damage that took him out of contention. He would finish 46 laps down in 34th.

"I guess I could've just not gone to the middle and been more patient knowing how fast my car was and knowing who I was around," Larson told reporters on pit road after the race. "I wanted to get as many cars as I could in the beginning of that little run, and it just probably ended up biting me ... I'm not sure if Suarez got loose underneath me or what happened, but he just got into my left rear and got me kind of out of control."

Explaining his perspective of the crash after the race, Suarez claimed that Brad Keselowski was trying to pinch Larson down at the same time that Larson was trying to pinch Suarez down on the exit of the corner, leading to the two taking a much lower exit than Suarez was anticipating.

"I was expecting those two guys to be closer to the wall like everyone else," Suarez told reporters. "I'm the one that made contact with the 5 and I take responsibility for that, but I feel like they were lower than what I was expecting."

Larson's crash also had consequences in the regular season standings, as his finish and the points he lost wound up costing him the points lead. Chase Elliott now leads the regular season standings by eight points after a third-place finish.

Them's the Breaks

In a charmed career that has seen him win at least once in 19 consecutive seasons dating back to his rookie year of 2005, Kyle Busch has seldom had any stretches where he's had to worry about when he's going to win a race, much less whether or not he's going to make the playoffs. But since his career-long winless streak has crossed over into being more than a year-long, seemingly nothing can go right for Busch right now -- and that continued tonight with a very sudden end to his night.

A few laps after a restart, Busch dropped dramatically off the pace and made an unscheduled pit stop, thinking that he had a left rear tire going down. He did not: Busch's problems were far worse, and his team initially went behind the wall to fix a suspension problem. Upon Busch's return to the track, a power steering belt broke on his car, sending him back to the garage and ending his night for good.

"I don't know what happened, but Next Gen parts and pieces broke," Busch told NBC Sports. "Something in the left rear suspension. I don't know if it was a toe link or what it was, but it changed the skew of the back of the car, and just (made it) undriveable doing that. So came in and fixed it, rolling back out, blew the power steering line off -- or the belt, just broke the belt. I have no idea. But frustrating for sure."

As a result of his second DNF in his last three starts, Busch has now dropped to 31 points below the playoff cut line, putting the two-time Cup champion in ever-increasing jeopardy of missing the playoffs. Busch has only missed NASCAR's postseason twice since 2006, and he has never missed the playoffs since the current format was introduced in 2014.

With Blaney's win, six spots now remain for drivers who have yet to win in 2024 to make the playoffs on points. A sixth-place finish for Joey Logano allowed him to move to within six points of Bubba Wallace for the final available playoff spot.

Race results rundown

  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won three-straight Xfinity Series races at Iowa in 2011 and 2012, making it quite fitting that he wound up featuring in the track's inaugural Cup race. Stenhouse found the front of the field multiple times on strategy and even led four laps before finishing fifth after matching Blaney's strategy, taking only two tires on his final stop. It's Stenhouse's second top five and third top 10 of the season.
  • After Kyle Larson's issues, there was a moment where it looked like the night could belong to Josh Berry, as he would lead a career-high 32 laps and was out front with less than 100 to go prior to the final caution. Though his lane choice on the last restart would cost him valuable track position, Berry still finished seventh to earn his third top 10 of the year and snap a streak of two consecutive DNFs.
  • Despite his contact with Larson, Daniel Suarez would have a night to be proud of: A ninth-place finish marked only his third top 10 of the season and his first in two months as he and his team continue to try and improve their performance on the long runway their win at Atlanta in February provided them.
  • Justin Haley continues to impress in the Rick Ware Racing No. 51, as he exhibited top 10 speed throughout the night before ultimately finishing 13th. It's Haley's third top-15 finish in his last five starts, a stretch which includes two top-10 finishes.
  • Harrison Burton quietly turned in one of his best performances of the season, posting a 20th-place finish to earn just his third top 20 of the entire season. Burton's previous such efforts came at Atlanta (11th) and Talladega (10th).
  • Right front tire failures ensnared multiple drivers throughout the weekend at Iowa, with AJ Allmendinger earning a double-whammy. After a right front tire failure sent him hard into the wall and made him the first car out of Saturday's Xfinity Series race, Allmendinger made only 54 laps before another right front tire failure sent him into the wall in the Cup race and ended his night.

Next race

The NASCAR Cup Series goes from corn to clams with a trip up to New England and the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the USA Today 301 next Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA.

Updates
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He got his very first NASCAR win here as a teenager back in 2012, and now the defending Cup Series champion is going to become the very first driver to ever roll a Cup car into Victory Lane at Iowa Speedway! Ryan Blaney gets on the board in 2024 and picks up his first win of the season in the inaugural Iowa Corn 350!

1 - #12 - Ryan Blaney
2 - #24 - William Byron
3 - #9 - Chase Elliott
4 - #20 - Christopher Bell
5 - #47 - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
6 - #22 - Joey Logano
7 - #4 - Josh Berry (R)
8 - #48 - Alex Bowman
9 - #99 - Daniel Suarez
10 - #6 - Brad Keselowski

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Ryan Blaney has clean racetrack out in front of him now and has a seven tenths of a second lead on William Byron. Two laps to go, white flag this time by -- We'll see what happens when he takes that flag, and Blaney hopes it isn't anything like what happened at Gateway.

 
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William Byron has cleared the lapped traffic and has cut into within six tenths of a second. Five to go.

 
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10 laps to go. Ryan Blaney lost some time getting past Wallace and Gragson, but now Byron is going to have to pass both of those cars as well. The gap is seven tenths of a second.

 
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Ryan Blaney had to deal with Michael McDowell momentarily, as McDowell was on fresher tires and faster than the leaders after his unscheduled stop. Blaney lets McDowell by, and it won't cost him any time.

Byron is trying to find a way around the lapped car of Chase Briscoe, but Blaney is about to catch Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson who are racing each other for 16th. Less than 15 laps to go now.

 
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Michael McDowell has come to pit road with his right front tire flat. Second time today that's happened -- And that might make for some nervous people on pit road, as this green flag run continues with now 20 laps to go. Kaz Grala has also come to pit road as has John Hunter Nemechek.

Blaney has been able to open up his lead again. It's now 1.1 seconds from him to Byron.

 
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The Hendrick cars are now starting to make up time on Blaney again. Blaney has been struggling with lapped traffic in front of him, and that's allowed both Byron and Chase Elliott to close in.

Blaney caught a bit of a break as he was able to dispose of both Ryan Preece and Ty Gibbs, giving him a temporary two-car buffer over those two as he now tries to work on Austin Dillon.

 
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Big moment for Erik Jones, who got out of the groove entering Turn 1 right in front of race leader Ryan Blaney. Ross Chastain did something similar in virtually the same spot on the racetrack, costing him ninth to Alex Bowman.

Ryan Blaney has opened up a few tenths on William Byron and now leads by over a second. Coming up on 30 laps to go.

Blaney has now led 172 laps and counting tonight, setting a new career-best mark in that category.

 
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Big moment for Christopher Bell. He about lost it in Turn 1 while racing Daniel Suarez for seventh spot. He's since completed the pass.

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