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June 17, 2024

Three Up, Three Down: Drivers in focus leaving Iowa

Iowa Speedway’s Cup Series debut did not disappoint as there were comers and goers throughout the race and changes on track that kept drivers on their toes throughout all 350 laps.

Ryan Blaney led a career-high 201 laps around the 0.875-mile oval to score his first victory of 2024 and 11th career win at NASCAR’s top level.

RELATED: Race results | At-track photos: Iowa

Before the circuit heads to the Granite State for an affair at New Hampshire Motor Speedway next Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, PRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App), here’s a look at the drivers who trended up and slid down through Iowa.


1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drives at Iowa
James Gilbert | Getty Images

Started: 35th

Finished: 5th

What happened: With the help of aggressive pit strategy calls throughout the second half of Sunday’s Iowa race, Stenhouse was able to move to the front of the field, and despite only taking two tires on the final stop, the three-time Xfinity Iowa victor was able to hold his track position to come out with his second top-five finish of 2024. It’s his first non-superspeedway top-five result since finishing fourth in the now-defunct Bristol Dirt Race in 2023.

What’s next: Stenhouse heads to New Hampshire next Sunday, where a top 20 is the trend for the No. 47 team as Stenhouse hasn’t finished worst than 22nd in the last four races in the Granite State.

2. Josh Berry, No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

Josh Berry drives at Iowa
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

Started: 3rd

Finished: 7th

What happened: At one point in the final stage, it looked like Berry was in prime position to break through for his first career win in his rookie campaign, but on the final restart, Berry was held back by the No. 47 and couldn’t find any long-run speed to challenge the likes of Blaney, William Byron and Chase Elliott. However, Berry led a career-high 32 laps en route to a seventh-place run to give him three consecutive top 10s when he’s taken the checkered flag (DNFs at Gateway, Sonoma).

What’s next: The tracks on the shorter end have been a playground for Berry, and New Hampshire plays right into the roots theme that the 33-year-old rookie carries with pride. While the results at the track don’t pan out too much on the Xfinity level, the No. 4 SHR Ford should have another shot at a strong points day next weekend.

3. Daniel Suárez, No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet

Daniel Suárez drives at Iowa
Jonathan Bachman | Getty Images

Started: 13th

Finished: 9th

What happened: A grind of a race for Suárez ended up with a gutsy top-10 result and a much-needed one for the No. 99 Trackhouse team. It’s the first top 10 for the group since finishing fifth at Texas Motor Speedway in April, and they’ll need to keep finding finishes like this to begin their postseason prep, thanks to their Atlanta win.

What’s next: There’s more optimism for the No. 99 team heading to New Hampshire as Suárez scored a ninth-place finish at the track in 2022.


1. Kyle Larson, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Kyle Larson drives at Iowa
Brittney Wilbur | NASCAR Digital Media

Started: 1st

Finished: 34th

What happened: It’s tough to throw Larson’s performance as a downer for him, given that he showed to have the fastest car in the field 200 laps in. He won Stage 2 and led 80 laps, but fortunes went the wrong way for the No. 5 team as contact with Suárez early in the final stage resulted in Larson spinning and wrecking into Denny Hamlin on Lap 221.

The No. 5 crew worked diligently to keep the Chevy on track with a trip to the garage for repairs. Larson did return to the track but finished 36 laps down in 34th.

What’s next: With Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott taking the series points lead by eight points over Larson, Larson will need a big points day at New Hampshire, given Elliott’s continued top-20 streak in 2024. And a top-five, top-10 run is doable for the No. 5 team as Larson finished third in the Granite State in 2023.

2. Kyle Busch, No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Kyle Busch drives at Iowa
Jonathan Bachman | Getty Images

Started: 7th

Finished: 35th

What happened: Busch’s night can easily be summed up by spotter Derek Kneeland’s reaction on social media, which read: “It could rain 100 dollar bills and we would get a penny.”

Busch was in line for a much-needed top-10 run Sunday, but after hitting the wall during the final stage, the No. 8 driver deemed the car “undriveable” and took it to the garage, where the two-time Cup champ’s day ended early for the second time in three weekends.

What’s next: Now 31 points below the provisional playoff elimination line, Busch needs a lifeline at New Hampshire to stay within striking distance of the top 16, but the last four outings in the Northeast have not gone according to plan for Busch, with three DNFs in that span.

3. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Denny Hamlin drives at Iowa
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Started: 12th

Finished: 24th

What happened: Hamlin’s day started miserably at Iowa. During the first stage, the No. 11 Toyota parachuted outside the top 30 and even fell a lap down naturally. Describing the first 70 laps as feeling “like the tires are on backwards,” Hamlin did recover to find himself in the top 10 and even collected five points in Stage 2.

But Hamlin would soon be collected in the Larson incident, having nowhere to go down the frontstretch as the No. 5 careened right in front of Hamlin. The No. 11 stayed out on track and finished two laps down in 24th.

What’s next: After five consecutive top-five results, Hamlin has now finished outside the top 20 in the last two races due to a mechanical failure and wreck, respectively. However, New Hampshire is one of Hamlin’s best venues, with an average finish of 9.4 in 30 starts at the 1.058-mile facility, and the No. 11 team should get back on track next Sunday.