Iowa Speedway passes test for Nationwide teams
May 06, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
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Two-time NASCAR national series champion Brad Keselowski turned his attention away from a tough Talladega weekend and toward testing at Iowa Speedway on Tuesday as NASCAR Nationwide Series cars turned the first laps of the year at the Newton, Iowa facility.
In Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499, Keselowski made contact with Danica Patrick while passing for the lead early in the race. He also touched of a 14-car incident later in the race, looked forward to getting behind the wheel again at one of his favorite tracks.
"Last weekend wasn't much fun," Keselowski said of Talladega. "Windshield and bug."
"We've had some good weekends this year. Last weekend was probably our worst one. I don't think anybody would argue that. Getting back on the track, getting back in a rhythm is never a bad thing even if you just had a good week so I'm certainly still learning. Always have more to learn and being here today, hopefully I'll find something."
The two-time Iowa race winner returned to help Team Penske's Nationwide team that sits third in the owner standings, 38 points behind the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing team. His Penske teammate, Ryan Blaney, who drives Brad Keselowski Racing's full-time entry in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was at a Goodyear Tire test on Tuesday.
"I'm here trying to help out the 22 Nationwide team because Ryan Blaney, who's running for the truck championship, had some obligations in Dover, Delaware," Keselowski said. "So I guess I'm his test driver. Hopefully I can help him have a good run here in the coming weeks."
Before the Nationwide and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West Series descend upon Newton in 10 days, the speedway hosted a "confirmation test," according to NASCAR Nationwide Series Managing Director Wayne Auton.
"The biggest thing for coming here was just to see the new patches, to see the race track, how it aged over the offseason and the long winter everybody had here in Iowa, and I think it's going to be great," Bayne said. "We've driven around with no problems this morning, and the track seems really good as usual."
"It is still bumpy, but I think that makes for great racing and multiple lines and things like that so we're excited to get back here to Iowa."
Auton also was pleased with what he saw on track.
"We are delighted … with this test," Auton said. "We had some major concerns coming in because the winter was so rough. All the drivers think this is going to be a great race next week."
Bayne famously spent his honeymoon at Iowa Speedway last spring after a mid-week wedding. He and bride Ashton will have another reason to celebrate when they return to Newton next week.
"(The race) is actually going to come a little sooner than my one-year anniversary, but it's my wife's birthday so now she's putting the pressure on me again," Bayne said. "I just can't get away from it. We'll see if I can't do it again, but we're looking for that first win this season and our first top-five since Daytona earlier in the year..."
Bayne and Keselowski were joined by Sam Hornish Jr., who won the Coors Light Pole last weekend at Talladega in his first start for JGR in the No. 54 Toyota. Brian Scott represented Richard Childress Racing with the No. 2 car, and two-time winner in 2014, Chase Elliott, along with Austin Theriault took turns behind the wheel of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Camaro.
Keselowski won the first Nationwide race at the facility in 2009 and the last event there last August, and last month, a Wednesday night summer race at Iowa made a Sprint Cup "dream schedule" that he crafted in a blog on bradracing.com. When asked why he liked the track, the 2010 Nationwide and 2012 Sprint Cup champ said it served competitors and patrons well.
"The design and layout is one of the few tracks that has a great balance between what the drivers like and the fans like," Keselowski said. "Drivers want a track where you can run and not spin out all the time for no reason, and they like the smaller tracks but not too small."
"This track is 7/8 of a mile so it's smaller but not so small you're on top of everybody. And I think drivers like that.
"From a fan perspective with the progressive banking and the way the track has aged and gotten rougher, the cars seem to run side by side here really well, and I think that makes for great racing for the fans from that perspective."
The facility, which was purchased by NASCAR in the offseason, will host the combined K&N Pro Series East and West Casey's General Store 150 on Saturday, May 17 and the Nationwide Series Get to Know Newton 250 presented by Sherwin-Williams on Sunday, May 18 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN).