By Amanda Vincent, NASCAR reporter
- 1st series regular to win since March 2010
- Edwards settles for 2nd place finish
- Third place finish for Keselowski
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. held off two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars – Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski – to claim victory in the John Deere Dealers of Iowa 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Sunday. The win was Stenhouse Jr.’s first-career win, and it made him the first series regular to visit victory lane since Justin Allgaier won at Bristol Motor Speedway in March 2010.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Stenhouse Jr.’s crew chief Mike Kelley said.
Stenhouse Jr. and Edwards swapped the lead several times late in the race, but Stenhouse Jr. was able to pull away in the closing laps for smooth sailing to the checkered flag.
“That’s as hard as I could drive,” Edwards said of losing ground to Stenhouse Jr. late in the race.
I couldn’t pick a better place to win.
Sunday’s event was a 180 from the Iowa race weekend Stenhouse Jr. endured a year ago.
“I couldn’t pick a better place to win,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “Iowa wasn’t my favorite place. It is now.”
In the Nationwide race at the track last year, Stenhouse Jr. wrecked three different cars – one in practice, one in qualifying and a third one in the race.
Even though Sprint Cup regulars Kyle Busch and Joey Logano didn’t make the trip to Iowa for the weekend’s Nationwide race, the No. 18 and No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing cars occupied the top two spots for several laps early in the race after starting in the front row when qualifying was rained out for the series.
Michael McDowell filled in behind the wheel of the No. 18 and Drew Herring drove the No. 20. The two drivers combined to keep the lead for JGR until Reed Sorenson claimed the lead on a restart right after the lap 50 competition caution.
Sorenson led until about the halfway point of the race when the Sprint Cup duo of Keselowski and Edwards took over for few laps. Stenhouse Jr. soon replaced Keselowski in the top-two, and he and teammate Edwards commanded the rest of the race.
The complexion of the race changed somewhat after most of the field cycled through green flag pit stops with about 43 laps to go. After pitting under a recent caution during which the leaders stayed out, a few drivers, including Justin Allgaier, Jeremy Clements, Brian Scott and Kenny Wallace stayed out some extra laps, awaiting a caution.
The drivers awaiting a caution got the yellow flag they needed at the expense of Scott. Cars coming on fresher tires got into Scott, sending him into a spin. With most of the field previously pitting under green, the caution caught all but six cars at least a lap down.
Allgaier, Wallace and Clements then made their pit stops under the yellow and restarted right behind leaders Edwards and Stenhouse Jr. The cars that were a lap down after their green-flag stops took the wave around to get back on the lead lap, but Allgaier, Wallace and Clements were in front of them, as a result of waiting for the caution.
On the restart with 22 laps to go, Edwards was in the top spot, Stenhouse Jr. was second, Allgaier third, Wallace fourth, Keselowski fifth and Clements sixth.
Edwards and Stenhouse Jr. went about their business of swapping the lead back and fourth until Stenhouse Jr. was able to pull away in the closing laps. Keselowski ended up finishing third, Sorenson was fourth and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top-five.
“We’re very happy,” Sadler said. “Very pleased with our run today.”
Wallace slid back a few spots in the closing laps to finish sixth. McDowell was seventh, and Allgaier fell back to eighth by the checkered flag. James Buescher finished ninth and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-10.