Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won a Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway for the third straight time with a dominating performance in Sunday's Pioneer Hi-Bred 250.
Stenhouse, the defending Nationwide champion, led a career-race-high 209 laps in the 250-lap race. He held off Elliott Sadler in the closing laps to claim his third win in the series this year and the fifth of his career.
Stenhouse's first Nationwide victory came at this 0.875-mile track one year ago. He followed up with another win here last August.
During Saturday's practice session at Iowa, Stenhouse sustained damage to the right side of his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford when he made contact with the wall. The team avoided having to use their backup car.
"That was dominate right there," a happy Stenhouse said in Iowa's victory lane. "This [car] was running hot there. The rubber was getting on the [front] grille, and it was slowing us down a little bit with the temperature. All in all, it was a great day getting three in a row here at Iowa. I can't believe we got two in a row - now three."
Sadler, the pole sitter, finished 1.5 seconds behind Stenhouse in the runner- up spot. Last weekend at Darlington, Sadler was wrecked by eventual race winner Joey Logano in the closing laps and lost ground in the championship points battle with a 24th-place finish there.
With his Iowa win, Stenhouse increased his points lead from 23 to 28 over Sadler.
"Last week was definitely tough, but I'm so proud of my team to come back here and sit on the pole," Sadler said. "That last caution just killed us when [Travis Pastrana] decided for some reason to park on the backstretch. We were starting to run into [Stenhouse] a little bit. On that last restart, we had to battle with [Kurt Busch] and used up a lot of our tires."
Michael McDowell, who drove the No. 18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, and Sprint Cup Series regular Busch, who was behind the wheel of the No. 54 car for his younger brother, Kyle, made contact while battling for the third position during the final lap. McDowell hit Busch in the rear and turned him around.
McDowell, who rebounded from a pit-road speeding penalty late in the race, crossed the finish line in third. Busch recovered from his spin to place fifth. Rookie Austin Dillon was fourth.
"My weak spot was turn one, and I was loose getting in there all day," said Busch, who competed in a NASCAR race at Iowa for the first time. "McDowell got in there, and I was trying to hold him off. That's what racing is all about - two guys getting together. Yeah, we got the short end of the stick, but I don't care. I hate wrecked cars."
Busch had to start from the rear of the field since he did not qualify the car on Saturday. He was competing in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte.
After the 250-lap event had concluded, Busch and McDowell spoke about the incident.
"I thought I had a fender in there, and [Busch] said, 'Yeah, you were in there," McDowell noted. "He said it was good racing. I didn't want to dump somebody on the last lap."
Last week, NASCAR fined Busch $50,000 fine and placed him on probation until July 25 for reckless driving on pit road during the closing laps of the Sprint Cup race at Darlington. He was also penalized for his involvement in a post-race scuffle with Ryan Newman's team on pit road.
Justin Allgaier finished sixth, followed by Cole Whitt, also a rookie in the series this year, and Parker Kligerman.
Darrell Wallace Jr. made an impressive debut in NASCAR's second-tier series with a ninth-place run. Wallace was behind the wheel of the No. 20 car for JGR. In 2010, he became the first African-American driver to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race. He won at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, SC at the early age of 16 years, five months and 19 days.
Brendan Gaughan completed the top-10.
Tires were an issue at Iowa. Danica Patrick cut a tire and slammed into the wall on lap 113. She wound up finishing 30th.
"I'm bummed out because we were on a good roll and we were having the best short-track weekend we've had yet," Patrick said. "These are the things that happen, and you can't control it. You got 34 [race] weekends, and they're all not going to be perfect."
Jeff Green and Tayler Malsam also suffered blown tires during the event. Green, who continues to substitute for the injured Eric McClure in the No. 14 Toyota, crashed hard into wall between turns three and four. McClure has yet to be medically cleared by NASCAR to return to competition following his serious accident earlier this month at Talladega.
Pastrana, in his third Nationwide race, experienced an electrical issue which put him to a stop on the track. His team corrected the problem and he returned to finish 26th.