Iowa twin Nationwide experiment off to good start
NEWTON, Iowa (AP)
The NASCAR Nationwide race in Iowa didn't need Danica Patrick, Kyle Busch or Trevor Bayne around to help drive up ticket sales.
Sunday's race is sold out anyway, a strong indication that NASCAR's experiment to give two Nationwide events to the speedy oval carved out of a cornfield will be a success.
Organizers expect about 40,000 fans for the race, the only Nationwide event held on a Sunday on this year's schedule.
The track didn't bring in temporary seating to match the nearly 60,000 fans the track drew for stand-alone events in 2009 and 2010. But Iowa Speedway president Jerry Jauron said that they could have.
The Iowa Speedway will bring in temporary seating for the second Nationwide race in August, and Jauron sounds confident they'll draw a strong crowd for that one as well.
''We made a conscientious decision that, when we have a big race at Iowa Speedway the grandstands are going to be packed,'' Jauron said. ''We easily could have added sections and filled them, but the standing room-only (crowd) is the best-case scenario.''
Iowa's burgeoning fan base didn't get to see qualifying either, since heavy rains washed it out. That left the field to be set by owner's points, putting little-known Joe Gibbs Racing driver Drew Herring on the pole in his first series race of the year.
Herring has a grand total of four Nationwide races under his belt, starting with last year's event in Iowa where he finished a career best 15th.
Gibbs teammate Michael McDowell, driving Busch's No. 18 car, will start on the first line with Herring.
Austin Dillon, who picked up his first career win at Iowa last July in the NASCAR Trucks series, will start third.
Sprint Cup star Carl Edwards, who flew in for practice before flying back down to Charlotte for Saturday night's Sprint All-Star race, is fourth.
Nationwide series points leader Elliott Sadler will be sixth and Brad Keselowski, who won the very first Nationwide race at Iowa Speedway in 2009, will start 10th.
The back of the field will be highlighted by the first trio of women ever to start in the same Nationwide race - and none of them are named Danica.
Twins Angela and Amber Cope, both nieces of 1990 Dayton 500 winner Derrike Cope, will make their Nationwide debuts and become the first set of twins to race against each other. Angela will start 34th and Amber will round out the field in the 43rd spot.
The Cope twins, who hope to run a handful of Nationwide races this season, will be joined by Jennifer Jo Cobb, who'll start 40th.
''It seems like every time we turn around, women are making history in this sport,'' Cobb said.
Though the Nationwide series has been dominated by Sprint Cup drivers this season, Sunday's race in Iowa represents a golden opportunity for a Nationwide regular to change all that.
Plus, with the Sprint Cup series running Saturday night, they'll have the day to themselves.
''We've got a little bit better piece of the pie this weekend,'' Sadler said. ''We feel like the doors have opened up for us a little bit, where we can race hard and try and get a win and we're not running against as much competition, we feel like. But it's still going to be a tough race.''