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NASCAR Xfinity: Ryan Preece scores first win at Iowa

Ryan Preece celebrates in victory lane at Iowa Speedway after winning the U.S. Cellular 250 on July 29, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ryan Preece celebrates in victory lane at Iowa Speedway after winning the U.S. Cellular 250 on July 29, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

By AMANDA VINCENT

With its Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stars at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., tending to duties related to Sunday’s Overton’s 400 there, Joe Gibbs Racing called on two part-time drivers, Ryan Preece and Kyle Benjamin, to fill in behind the wheel of two of its NASCAR Xfinity Series liveries at Iowa Speedway for Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 in Newton. The two drivers started the race in the first two positions and finished the race in the top-two. Preece started the day in Iowa by claiming his first-career Xfinity pole and wound up the day in victory lane, celebrating his first-career series win in only his second start of the season.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Preece said. “I’ve just got to thank everybody. I’m at a loss for words right now. I don’t even know what to say. This is what emotion is. I could tell you that. I thought this race would never end; that’s for sure, but, man, nothing is going to beat today.”

Benjamin started on the front row for the fourth time in four Xfinity starts this season and finished second to his JGR teammate.

“It was a lot of fun, there,” Benjamin said. “It just hurt that we didn’t get the win, but I’ll take second any day. We needed a good run, and I had a lot of fun and learned a lot in the race. I learned more in that race than I have in any of the previous ones, so a lot to take a way from it. And congratulations to Ryan Preece.”

Meanwhile, Brian Scott finished third in his first race since retiring from full-time competition at the end of 2016 and his first Xfinity Series race since the 2015 season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“It was a lot of fun being out there with nothing to lose,” Scott said. “I’m looking forward to getting back in the car in Kentucky to wear these kids out, again.”

Preece and Justin Allgaier combined dominate the race, leading all but seven laps that were led by their teammates, Benjamin and Elliott Sadler. Preece took the win in stage one, while Allgaier won stage two.

After Preece led all of stage one, Benjamin and Sadler’s laps led came in the opening laps of stage two. Benjamin got off pit road first during the caution between the first two 60-lap stages but lost the lead to Sadler on the restart. Sadler soon lost the lead to Allgaier, and Allgaier went on to lead the remainder of stage two. By stage-end, Preece was up to second.

Allgaier was still up front early in the third stage that made up the second-half of the race, but pit strategy resulted in a drop through the race field after a lap-169 caution. When the yellow flag waved, Allgaier was the only driver who stayed out, and Preece lined up next to him on the front row for the restart. When the race returned to green, Allgaier, on older tires, lost several positions, and Preece retook the lead.

Preece led the remaining distance, and Allgaier wound up off the lead lap when he had to pit under green with just over 20 laps remaining.

Right after Allgaier pitted, the yellow flag waved. There were only two cautions for on-track incidents through the first 230 laps of the race, but the last 20 laps were littered by three cautions.

Brennan Poole and Cole Custer finished fourth and fifth. J.J. Yeley was sixth in the first race since the death of his car owner, Mark Smith.

“It means a tone,” Yeley said. “There’s nothing on this car, and when we run it plain black like this, we actually call it ‘Black Betty.’ Obviously, with what happened with Mark passing away earlier this week, we wanted to just go at it with all of our guns blazing, and we had a great car that could run top-15 pretty much the whole race. Then, when we started to come in there, that last thing we had, we had some 30-lap scuffs, and I made the last second decision to pit and put them on and go for it. Just got lucky being on the outside, there, on those last restarts. I think Mark was watching from up above, and he helped me get by that 19 (Matt Tifft) car when it started to spin, and we came away with sixth. I think we could’ve run a little bit harder, but wanted to make sure that we could take what we could get.”

Finishing seventh through 10th were Daniel Hemric, Blake Koch, William Byron and Brandon Jones.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (Facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (Facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on July 30, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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