Follow on-track action from Iowa Speedway
May 17, 2014, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com
NASCAR Nationwide teams prep for Sunday's Get to Know Newton 250
8:10 p.m. ET (Full qualifying results)
NEWTON, Iowa -- Ten races, 10 polesitters.
The season-long trend of a new driver on the pole for every NASCAR Nationwide Series race continued Saturday at Iowa Speedway. Ryan Blaney, who missed all of Friday's track time, won the 21 Means 21 Pole for the first time in the Nationwide Series with a best speed of 136.081 mph.
Blaney's run comes less than 24 hours after the driver was caught up in a wreck in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte. He flew out to Iowa followingthat event, landing at approximately 4 a.m. He was in the car for the firstpractice, which started at 12:30 p.m. ET.
"I haven’t had the best two to three weeks," Blaney said. "I've been caught up in wrecks, and been in some that were my fault. It's been tough. But you have to put that behind you right away and focus on the task at hand. I can think about Friday night all I want, but it's kind of irrelevant to keep thinking about it. I can't change it."
Sam Hornish Jr. jumped up to the second spot after taking his first qualifying lap with one minute left in the final 10-minute session, posting a speed of 136.062 mph.
Rounding out the top five is Michael McDowell (135.963 mph), Regan Smith (135.665 mph) and Dylan Kwasniewski (135.525 mph).
The performances from Hornish and McDowell give Joe Gibbs Racing two cars in the top three on the grid. Neither is the full-time driver of his respective car. Sunday's Get to Know Newton 250 presented by Sherwin-Williams will be McDowell's first series race of the year -- Hornish has one start in the No. 54, a fifth-place run at Talladega.
"With my Sprint Cup program, I come into this opportunity and don't ask a lot of questions," McDowell said. "It is tough to plug in with a new team and a new series, but when the car unloads that well, it makes my job a loteasier, for sure."
Chase Elliott was the first one out of his stall for the final session, but he waited on pit road for three minutes before getting onto the track. Those who followed Elliott -- Smith, Brian Scott and Blaney initially -- stayed on pit road for another two minutes. Blaney finally pushed off at the halfway point of the 10-minute session, and he surpassed Elliott's time. It was a mark that wouldn't be topped.
Elliott, who graduated high school earlier Saturday, qualified sixth with a speed of 135.437 mph.
7:45 p.m. ET
NEWTON, Iowa -- Ryan Ellis called it the hardest hit of his life, and he's got a massive black bruise on the right side of his body to prove it.
In Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Ellis blasted the outside wall practically head-on after getting hit from behind by Jake Crum on the backstretch with no othertrucks around.
"I'm still a little groggy," Ellis said just before Saturday's qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway. "I got an hour of sleep before I had to go to the airport to fly to Iowa, then we had practice this morning. Pretty much everything on my body hurts, but the best remedy to pain is a steering wheel and a pedal."
Crum's shot sent Twitter ablaze with commentary (Dale Earnhardt Jr. even chimed in) on what looked like an outright dump.
Damn, that guy wrecked the hell out of the other guy. #truckrace— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) May 17, 2014
Have Ellis and Crum talked since the incident?
In reply, Ellis whips out his cell phone -- the same one on which he was texting his mom before qualifying -- and showed his call log. Crum's name was listed multiple times, both for missed calls and in instances in which the drivers connected.
"He had gotten into the wall earlier, and he said it affected his truck," Ellis said. "He said it had gotten really darty. He meant to side draft off me. There are no hard feelings."
Ellis, who has eight career Nationwide Series starts, did not advance past the first 30-minute round of group qualifying into the final 10-minute round.
That honor went to, in order: Brendan Gaughan, Brian Scott, Landon Cassill, Chase Elliott, Regan Smith, Michael McDowell, Elliott Sadler, Ryan Blaney, Sam Hornish Jr., Chris Buescher, Dylan Kwasniewski and Chase Pistone.
Gaughan went from out of the final round to first on the board in the final two minutes. Rookie Chase Pistone also slipped in late, knocking Elliott out of the top 12 momentarily before the No. 9 Chevrolet turned the fourth-best lap of the session in the final minute.
5 p.m. ET
NEWTON, Iowa -- No one has improved on the track more over the past 30 hours at Iowa Speedway than James Buescher.
The 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion -- who has a Truck Series win at Iowa to his credit – was 20th out of 27 drivers in Friday's opening session with a car that didn't do anything the way he wanted. There was a reason for that unpredictability, though.
"We brought a brand-new car that had never been on the race track, and it took us all day to get it where we wanted it," crew chief Chris Rice said. "We had to regroup last night, and then changed a bunch of things. We're way better now."
Buescher was actually worse in Friday's second practice -- 21st -- but made gains in the third session, finishing 11th. With the changes to his unfettered vehicle, Buescher climbed to eighth in Saturday's final practice. More important than simply getting faster, Buescher feels more comfortable behind the wheel of his No. 99 Toyota.
Good thing, too, because the team's goals have changed with this being the first stand-alone of the season.
"Every week we go into a race wanting to be top-10," Rice said. "Here this week, we want to be top-five."
Group qualifying for Sunday's race is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
3:35 p.m. ET
NEWTON, Iowa -- Joey Gase was a starry-eyed kid when the first bulldozer moved dirt at a site that would eventually become Iowa Speedway. Considering Gase lived just 90 minutes away in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the 0.875-mile oval became a racing mecca in his mind.
"I remember when I was little kid and they were starting to build this track, and I was so excited that NASCAR would be coming to my home state," Gase said Saturday in the media center at Iowa Speedway. "I always thought how cool it'd be to race here."
Now, he is. Again.
Sunday's Get to Know Newton 250 presented by Sherwin-Williams would be Gase's sixth career NASCAR Nationwide Series start at the track. Not bad for a 21-year-old.
Driving the No. 52 Iowa Donate Life Chevrolet, Gase is coming off his career-best finish. Two weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway, he finished 11th -- nearly notching the first top-10 of his Nationwide Series career.
"Not a whole lot of time to celebrate," Gase said. "We've been working with some sponsors and doing some work back in Iowa."
2:10 p.m. ET | Practice 4 results
NEWTON, Iowa -- One day after Dylan Kwasniewski improved his performance in three consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series practices, the 18-year-old rookie made another leap -- all the way to the top of the leaderboard.
In the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Kwasniewski led Saturday's final practice session with a best speed of 135.077 mph around Iowa Speedway. He hit that mark on a mock qualifying run, which came on his 45th of 46 laps, and ousted Ty Dillon from the top.
Dillon, who led most of Saturday's practice, finished the session second with a speed of 134.088 mph around the 0.875-mile oval.
It was the first practice of the day for Nationwide Series drivers, but the fourth over the past two days. It came in advance of group qualifying scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Austin Theriault, who will make his Nationwide Series debut Sunday in the Get to Know Newton 250 presented by Sherwin-Williams (2 p.m. ET, ESPN), finished third with a speed of 133.764 mph. Trevor Bayne (133.713 mph) and Chad Boat (133.480 mph) completed the top five, which had four Chevrolets.
James Buescher (132.648 mph) was the fastest Toyota and came in eighth on the leaderboard.
Chase Pistone (133.254 mph), driving the No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevy in place of Kwasniewski, continued his strong weekend by placing sixth. Brian Scott (132.872 mph, seventh), Ryan Reed (132.632 mph, ninth) and Ryan Sieg (132.531 mph, 10th) rounded out the top 10.
Team Penske's Ryan Blaney, who missed Friday's three practice sessions due to driving in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in Charlotte, North Carolina, was 20th on the leaderboard. His top speed was 131.667 mph in the No. 22 Ford.
One notable name missing from the leaderboard: Chase Elliott, the series points leader who led two of three practices Friday and was second in the other. The 18-year-old graduated from high school this morning, but is expected back in Iowa for qualifying.
1:15 p.m. ET
It's part of a plan, the 28-year-old said Saturday morning, for the speedway to continue to promote the NASCAR Nationwide Series as its "number one product."
"Iowa Speedway is the place for Nationwide Series drivers to win," Small said during the event announcement at the track. "This is where we want to make names, where we want the Nationwide Series to be on a pedestal.
"It's another example of our commitment to the state of Iowa and to the city of Newton. To host the finale for the Dash 4 Cash program is something we've been working for."
That announcement was the first item on a busy daily docket. Final Nationwide Series practice began at 12:45 p.m. ET. Qualifying is at 7:10 p.m. ET, with K&N Pro Series practice and qualifying in between. The K&N Pro Series also has a combined East Series and West Series race tonight at 9 p.m. ET.
6:15 p.m. ET
Some final observations from Friday's three-practice day at Iowa Speedway:
• He'll miss Saturday's practice due to high school graduation, but Chase Elliott looks to have the car to beat. He finished first in the first and third practices, and second in the middle two-hour session. His top speed in the third practice, 135.566, was the fastest of the day.
• Seven drivers finished in the top 10 of all three practice sessions, which combined to last slightly more than six hours -- Elliott, Brian Scott, Regan Smith, Chase Pistone, Elliott Sadler, Michael McDowell and Brendan Gaughan.
• Two drivers ran more than 50 laps in every session -- Scott and Cale Conley. Scott's 74 laps in the final 80-minute practice was the most among any session.
• Driving the No. 7 Chevrolet, Regan Smith was seventh in every practice.
• The cleanest car in the garage was the Team Penske No. 22 Ford. Ryan Blaney will pilot the car come Sunday, but on Friday he was qualifying and racing his full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ride in Charlotte, North Carolina. Rather than use a backup driver, the No. 22 simply stayed off the track.
• Three drivers improved their final position in each consecutive practice: Dylan Kwasniewski (13th, 11th, fourth), Ryan Gifford (19th, 18th, 17th) and Jeffrey Earnhardt (22nd, 19th, 15th).
4:15 p.m. ET
It took more than five hours, but someone finally knocked Chase Elliott off the top of Friday's practice leaderboards.
Brian Scott, in qualifying trim, unseated the JR Motorsports rookie from the top position late in the second of three practices at Iowa Speedway. Scott held on for the top speed of the two-hour practice at 134.811 mph, ahead of Elliott's mark of 134.656 mph.
The second two-hour practice session was stopped twice due to caution, but both instances were brief. The first came when light rain peppered the track for approximately 90 seconds before dissipating. The second was approximately three minutes for debris.
There were no major incidents in either practice. Dylan Kwasniewski's No. 42 Chevrolet scraped the outside wall during the second session, but the damages were cosmetic only -- the backup car was in no danger of coming out of the hauler.
3 p.m. ET
Brian Scott drives the No. 2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. In Friday's first practice, he was second on the speed chart.
And in the 60 minutes that separated the opening three-hour practice session at Iowa Speedway from the second two-hour session, Scott made an announcement that again concerns that number -- only this had much greater significance than anything on the track.
Scott and his wife, Whitney, are expecting their second child in November, the driver announced on Twitter (see the tweet below).
How did he celebrate such a momentous announcement? By climbing back into his car, thanking his crew for working on the car during the break and getting back onto the track.
Oh, and he quickly posted the second-fastest time of the session -- although at the halfway point, Scott was seventh (133.277 mph). Chase Elliott, who led the first session, was out front midway through the second session with a speed of 134.656 mph.
2 p.m. ET
Ty Dillon will try his luck in a sport other than racing Friday evening.
The Richard Childress Racing driver and diehard Atlanta Braves fan will attend the Iowa Cubs Triple-A baseball game in Des Moines, Iowa, and throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game against the Round Rock Express.
And, he said, being at the track all day won't prohibit him from hurling a strike.
"Oh, I can wing it," Dillon said with a laugh. "I can throw a baseball."
Perhaps the biggest impediment to Dillon's task of throwing an acceptable first pitch -- one that stays out of the dirt, for example -- is the weather. Windy and cold early Friday morning, the temperature is expected to be in the upper 40s by the time Dillon goes to the mound.
The 22-year-old wore a parka into the media center Friday afternoon and kept it in for the duration of his interview, despite being inside. Keeping his pitching arm warm?
"Nah, I've been warming my arm up all day," Dillon said with a laugh, circling his arm off to the side. "Did a little bowling last night to warm up. I'm ready for it."
1:15 p.m. ET
From start to finish, 18-year-old Chase Elliott was the guy to beat in the NASCAR Nationwide Series opening three-hour practice session at Iowa Speedway. And no one could do it.
Elliott posted the fastest time as soon as he steered his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet onto the 0.875-mile oval, and his mark of 134.690 mph stood up throughout the duration of the practice.
In fact, there was little movement over the final 90 minutes. The top five remained the same with Brian Scott (134.546 mph) posting the second-best speed, followed by Sam Hornish Jr. (134.506 mph), Trevor Bayne (134.283 mph) and Elliott Sadler (134.277 mph).
Chase Pistone, 20, jumped into the top 10 late in the session with a speed of 133.001 mph, good for eighth place. He's driving the No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet in place of Dylan Kwasniewski, who's in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Pistone, who will make his first Nationwide Series start Sunday, logged 64 laps.
Michael McDowell (133.974 mph) and Regan Smith (133.175 mph) were sixth and seventh, respectively, followed by Pistone, Brendan Gaughan (132.883) and Ty Dillon (132.833 mph).
It was the start of a long day of practice at Iowa. Following the first three-hour session, cars are back on track from 2-4 p.m. ET and then again from 4:30-5:50 p.m. ET.
12:15 p.m. ET
Sunday's Get to Know Newton 250 presented by Sherwin-Williams race for the NASCAR Nationwide Series is the first national series event at Iowa Speedway since the sanctioning body purchased the track in late November.
And while the foundation of the 0.875-mile track and surrounding facilities hasn't changed much, there are subtle upgrades.
Something that had folks in the garage grinning is the addition of personalized placards over every garage stall. With the Iowa frontstretch and grandstands serving as the backdrop, the mounted signs have the driver's car number on the left and last name on the right.
No typos, either, which is impressive considering the field has drivers with last names such as Theriault and Kwasniewski.
And no, there's not a need for a double take over stalls 35 and 36. That's just cousins James Buescher and Chris Buescher, ranked 13th and 14th in owner points, respectively, in close proximity.
11:30 a.m. ET
A slow start gave way to a flurry of on-track activity Friday as teams took advantage of a scheduled three-hour long practice session to make multiple changes to their setups.
Richard Childress Racing drivers Brian Scott and Ty Dillon, in particular, visited the garage several times for tweaks. In one instance, Dillon came in after posting the 11th-fastest time, got some adjustments on his No. 3 Chevrolet and went back out to post the eighth-fastest speed of the session. He returned for more work after just eight laps.
Scott, too, frequently brought his No. 2 Chevy in for service but remained just behind session leader Chase Elliott (134.690 mph).
Elliott was one of the first drivers to hit the track, and his time has yet to be topped, although Scott (134.546 mph) has come closest. Rounding out the top five midway through the first session are Sam Hornish Jr. (134.506 mph), Trevor Bayne (134.283 mph) and Elliott Sadler (134.277 mph). No other driver broke the 134-mph mark.
With rain in the area Thursday and a cold spell that had temperatures in the upper 30s Friday, the cold, hard track produced fast speeds. Hornish, for example, waited nearly 90 minutes before taking his No. 54 Toyota onto the track but immediately produced the third-quickest time.
Michael McDowell (133.974 mph), Regan Smith (133.175 mph), Brendan Gaughan (132.883), Dillon (132.727 mph) and Dylan Kwasniewski (132.576 mph) completed the top 10 midway through the first practice.
10:50 a.m. ET
NASCAR Nationwide Series teams were afforded the luxury of time Friday morning at Iowa Speedway.
With six hours of practice scheduled for the first day of the series' first stand-alone of 2014, the scheduled 10 a.m. ET start time came and went with no real rush to get onto the 0.875-mile track.
Drivers such as Brian Scott and Dylan Kwasniewski were milling around in jeans and sunglasses five minutes before the track officially opened as teams prepped -- and warmed up -- their rides. Austin Theriault, on the other hand, presented the other side of the spectrum. At age 20, he'll compete in his first Nationwide Series race on Sunday in the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet -- and he was eager to begin, pacing around in his fire suit as his car was detailed.
JR Motorsports veteran Regan Smith was the first driver on the track at approximately 10:34 a.m. ET, with teammate Theriault following after Smith had completed seven laps.
Forty-five minutes into the first practice, rookie Chase Elliott -- who is set to graduate from his Georgia high school on Saturday -- had assumed the top spot on the leaderboard with a speed of 134.690 mph. Trevor Bayne, the defending race winner, was second with a speed of 132.749 mph.
The first practice is scheduled to run until 1 p.m. ET, followed by a second session from 2-4 p.m. ET and a third from 4:30 p.m.-5:50 p.m. ET.