Photo: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Up to Speed: Previewing the Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

NEWTON, Iowa – Build it and they will come…. eventually.

After nearly two decades in existence, Iowa Speedway finally gets the call for a NASCAR Cup Series date this weekend, marking the latest track to host NASCAR’s premier series.

The 0.875-mile oval in Central Iowa, a brainchild of NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, has hosted three of the lower-level NASCAR series – Xfinity, Trucks, and ARCA – over the years, which only amplified the calls for the Cup Series to visit and the fans in the Midwest are finally getting their wish.

While the drivers were excited about finally getting to race on the aging surface of this track, those hopes were tampered a bit when the track underwent a partial repave in the corners over the offseason, making for a bit more of an unknown environment for the Cup Series drivers to have to contend with.

Some drivers in the field have had previous experience at Iowa, running in the lower divisions, but for all of them, the addition of the new asphalt will be throwing everyone a curveball.

Teams will have a 50-minute practice session on Friday to get their first feel of the track and a night to digest the data before qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.

Sunday’s race will also go a long way in setting the stage for the final run to the Playoffs, with just 10 races remaining in the regular season and only nine of the 16 spots in the postseason already claimed by wins.

Among the drivers that have yet to win in 2024 are Martin Truex, Jr., Ty Gibbs, Ross Chastain, Alex Bowman, defending series champion Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher and Bubba Wallace – all of whom are currently ranked inside the top-16 in the standings.

By the Numbers

What: Iowa Corn 350, NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 17 of 36

Where: Iowa Speedway – Newton, Iowa (Opened: 2006)

TV/Radio: USA Network, 7:00 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size: 0.875-mile oval

Race Length: 350 laps, 306.25 miles

Stage Lengths: First stage: 70 laps; Second stage: 140 laps; Final stage: 140 laps

Drivers with Xfinity Series Wins at Iowa

Brad Keselowski – 2009, 2013, 2014

Kyle Busch – 2010

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 2011 sweep, 2012

Chris Buescher – 2015

Ryan Blaney – 2015

Erik Jones – 2016

William Byron – 2017

Ryan Preece – 2017

Christopher Bell – 2018, 2019

Chase Briscoe – 2019

From the Driver’s Seat

Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet:

“We got to test there a few weeks ago, and I think the track will change a ton because it was very slick. The entry zone into turn one is real bumpy because that is the old pavement. The groove in the corner (on the new pavement) wasn’t that wide because we only had three cars running during the test. With the practice day and all the cars on the track plus the other series racing, hopefully it will widen out significantly prior to our race on Sunday.”

Chase Briscoe – No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Ford:

“I’m super excited. Every week we typically have meet-and-greets with sponsors and there’s always the question of ‘what’s your favorite racetrack?’ And it’s always Iowa. I would always say, ‘Well, we don’t go there in the Cup Series, but it’s Iowa Speedway,’ and now we finally get to go there in the Cup Series. I’m super excited. 

“Truthfully, I’m not as excited as I probably would have been if they didn’t repave it because it is going to be a totally different racetrack now going there with the repave, but I think it’s still going to have some of those same Iowa characteristics, but certainly I was pretty bummed that they repaved it, knowing my past history there and the love that I have for that place and that racetrack has always really suited my driving style for whatever reason, so I’m super excited to go and looking forward to it.”

Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota:

“It’s not ideal for sure. We wish we could have raced on the old Iowa, but evidently it was torn up pretty bad. If it did rain, it was going to be pretty bad. I understand why NASCAR has to pave tracks and that’s all understandable, but not leaving at least two full lanes of paving is a head scratcher.”

“I have no idea [what to expect]. It sounds like the groove was very narrow. It was very fast and passing will be extremely difficult, because you can’t go anywhere else on the race track. The tires are very hard, so we’re not going to run any soft tire at that track. There wasn’t enough time to test a different tire or get it manufactured.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

  • Friday, June 14
    • NASCAR Cup Series Practice (5:35 pm to 6:25 pm – USA Network)
  • Saturday, June 15
    • NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (1:05 pm – USA Network)
  • Sunday, June 16
    • NASCAR Cup Series Iowa Corn 350 (350 laps, 306.25 miles – 7:00 pm – USA Network)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.