Ryan Preece turned opportunity into victory Saturday at Iowa Speedway.
Competing in the last of his two scheduled NASCAR Xfinity Series starts this season with Joe Gibbs Racing, Preece held off Kyle Benjamin on three restarts in the final 23 laps of Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway on his way to his first NASCAR national series win.
"I don't even know what to say," Preece said in Victory Lane as tears streamed down his face. "I have to thank everybody. It's everybody involved in this. Man, i am so lost for words right now I don't even know what to say.
"This is what emotion is, I can tell you that. I though this race would never end, that's for sure. But man, nothing is going to beat today."
A three-car accident involving Matt Tifft, Dylan Lupton and Ty Majeski with four of 250 laps remaining sent the race into overtime. Preece got another stellar restart to keep Benjamin at bay as the two raced side-by-side over the final lap.
Preece, a regular and former champion in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, had finished second in his debut with JGR earlier this month at New Hampshire.
Brian Scott finished third, Brennan Poole was fourth and Cole Custer completed the top-five.
On Lap 170 of 250, Spencer Gallagher cut a right-front tire and slammed into the wall to bring out the race’s fourth caution and set up a daring tire strategy call by Justin Allgaier, who had one of the fastest cars in the race.
On the restart with 73 laps remaining, Allgaier – who elected not to pit to save a set of tires – remained in the lead, followed by Preece and Sadler. Preece quickly got by Allgaier for the lead on the restart.
With less than 45 laps left, Ben Kennedy – who had been running as high as third – was forced to pit under green for a flat right-front tire. During his pit stop, he was penalized for an uncontrolled tire and fell two laps down.
With 22 laps left, Allgaier was forced to pit under green for fuel, never getting the caution he needed to capitalize on his call to save a set of tires.
Allgaier deftly navigated lapped traffic to hold off a fierce challenge from Preece to claim the Stage 2 victory – his third Stage win of the season.
“It’s really hard (to work lapped traffic) and (Preece) behind me was doing a very good job at it,” Allgaier said during the break. “We weren’t really sure even through practice and qualifying today how we were going to be.
“We’re just kind of doing what everybody else isn’t and we’ve been pretty fast around here.”
Elliott Sadler was third, Kennedy was fourth and Benjamin completed the top-five.
During the Stage break, Michael Annett’s No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet lost power on pit road and required a change in ignition boxes.
Preece, making the second of his only two starts of the season with Joe Gibbs Racing, took the lead on the start and led all 60 laps to claim the Stage 1 victory.
“We made some adjustments but I think it was just typical tire wear,” Preece said during the break. “We have a lot more laps to go. We’re just going to try to get back up there because clean air means a lot. Patience will be huge.”
Sadler ended up second, Benjamin third, Poole fourth and Sam Hornish Jr. completed the top-five.
There were two minor incidents during the Stage. Brendan Gaughan slapped the wall at one time and slipped back to 16th.
His Richard Childress Racing teammate, Daniel Hemric, was forced to pit under green late in the Stage for a loose wheel that dropped him back to 26th.
Tyler Reddick was forced to the garage during the Stage break to work on an electrical issue with his No. 42 Chevrolet.
Ben Rhodes had to start the race from the rear of the field because of unapproved adjustments made between qualifying and the race.
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