NEWTON, Iowa — Chris Buescher and all but one driver battling at the front of the pack yearned for one last caution.
The lone exception?
Chase Elliott, who, fully fueled, had powered to a commanding lead and near-certain win in Sunday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway.
Two laps remained. Elliott’s trip to Victory Lane loomed. Then, it happened.
Jamie Dick, running mid-pack, hit the wall and spun, drawing a caution flag.
Buescher — his No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford packed with fuel and four fresh tires — smiled, charging hard and low on the restart to cap a temper-tinged and thrill-filled race with a green-white-checkered triumph at the 7/8-mile short track.
“When that happened, I knew we had an awesome shot at it,” said Buescher, who raced to the series standings lead by eight points over Ty Dillon, who finished 14th.
Buescher had on-track help — namely from Roush Fenway teammate, Darrell Wallace Jr., who provided a strong nudge as the race went green.
Maybe more than a nudge.
“(He) gave us a heck of a shot on the restart,” said Buescher, who relegated Elliott to second while notching his first win of the season and Roush Fenway’s fifth in 11 XFINITY Series races at Iowa. “It was a hard hit. That was almost a crash. It was exactly what we needed to get going and get to the inside and be able to pull this win off.”
Elliott took the runner-up finish in stride. He led 114 laps. His car ran fast all day long. The late-race pit strategy — partly because of minor right-side damage, he pitted on lap 177 while other leaders stayed out — nearly paid off.
“That’s racing some days,” said Elliott, who like Buescher enjoys a series-leading five top-five finishes this season. “You make a decision — and I think it was a good one. We had some right-side damage and it was good to come in and make sure that was OK rather than to face the opposite of that, cutting down a tire and have a day like we did in Talladega. So I think it was the right move.”
Erik Jones climbed from 35th to take third. Brian Scott and Ryan Blaney completed the top five.
Jones started near the rear of the field because Drew Herring qualified the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota on the pole while Jones remained in Charlotte.
By the Lap 60 competition caution, Jones had raced into the top 10, but couldn’t find enough speed in the ensuing laps to advance past third.
“We worked ourselves into a good position,” Jones said. “A long day coming from the back.”
Buescher — who raced outside the top 10 in both XFINITY Series Iowa races last season — merely needed to come from the second row.
He’d reluctantly accepted the waning laps would mostly entail driving in “points mode,” as Dillon had pitted late after running in the top eight most of the day.
“I hate points racing,” Buescher said. “I despise it. When that caution came out — watched it happen right in front of me — it was like, ‘All right, this is it. This is what we need. We need to come in and get some tires and get back rolling here.’”
That he did, right to the top, for now, at least.
“This is big,” Buescher said.
Black Flag: The race was marred by a temper-stoked wreck. Brennan Poole — who felt rival J.J. Yeley had struck him intentionally early in the race — spun Yeley out on lap 153. Yeley’s car sustained damage, but he was unharmed. Poole drew the black flag and told the Motorsports Racing Network, “it happens.” Yeley said the early-race encounter was unintentional and described his mood as “very furious.”
“Hopefully NASCAR gets ahold of him before I do,” Yeley added.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – 3M 250
- (4) Chris Buescher, Ford, 259, $91509.
- (6) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 259, $70020.
- (1) Erik Jones(i), Toyota, 259, $57688.
- (3) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 259, $40566.
- (13) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 259, $36811.
- (8) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 259, $33637.
- (14) Ben Rhodes, Chevrolet, 259, $32286.
- (5) Brandon Jones(i), Chevrolet, 259, $31236.
- (10) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 259, $30106.
- (11) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 259, $30123.
- (7) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 259, $28617.
- (16) Ryan Reed, Ford, 259, $28062.
- (18) John Wes Townley(i), Chevrolet, 259, $27532.
- (9) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 258, $27003.
- (19) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 258, $26873.
- (20) David Starr, Toyota, 258, $26321.
- (21) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 257, $26094.
- (2) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 257, $27042.
- (24) Cale Conley #, Toyota, 257, $25615.
- (25) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 257, $25888.
- (15) Dakoda Armstrong, Ford, 257, $25261.
- (23) Blake Koch, Toyota, 256, $25130.
- (40) Kenny Wallace, Toyota, 256, $18978.
- (29) Todd Bodine, Chevrolet, 255, $24828.
- (30) Jamie Dick, Chevrolet, 255, $24852.
- (22) Boris Said, Toyota, 254, $24575.
- (31) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 253, $24449.
- (33) Peyton Sellers #, Chevrolet, 252, $18298.
- (36) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 247, $18171.
- (37) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 247, $18345.
- (39) John Jackson, Dodge, 247, $17889.
- (17) Ross Chastain #, Chevrolet, Accident, 215, $23778.
- (27) Eric McClure, Toyota, Accident, 160, $23662.
- (26) JJ Yeley, Toyota, Accident, 151, $23551.
- (32) Ryan Ellis(i), Toyota, Electrical, 99, $17436.
- (35) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, Brakes, 68, $15678.
- (28) Harrison Rhodes #, Chevrolet, Suspension, 42, $14678.
- (12) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, Parked, 39, $19678.
- (34) Charles Lewandoski, Toyota, Brakes, 4, $12678.
- (38) Carl Long, Toyota, Electrical, 0, $11678.
Robert Gray – NASCAR Wire Service
Image: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR Wire Service