It was strictly a two-man show Sunday at Iowa Speedway, where Sam Hornish Jr. ran down Ryan Blaney late to win the Get To Know Newton 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
Hornish drove his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota past the Team Penske Ford of Blaney after a restart on the 229th of 250 laps to win his third career Nationwide race in 101 starts. All told, Blaney and Hornish combined to lead 247 laps on the day as the two put on a textbook display of dominance for the Iowa fans.
JR Motorsports teammates Regan Smith and Chase Elliott finished third and fourth, with Hornish’s teammate, Elliott Sadler, fifth.
For Hornish, who is driving part-time for JGR this year after spending the last decade working for Roger Penske, it was an emotional victory.
"I’m so blessed and thankful that this opportunity came around," Hornish said. "I was really hoping and praying that I got something good to get into. It’s pretty darn awesome. I thank God that I got a great opportunity and really good people around me and really good people in my life."
How the race played out was fairly basic: Hornish was much better on short runs and Blaney was better on longer runs. But the end of the race consisted of shorter green-flag periods, which played into Hornish’s hands.
"He was definitely better than us on new tires for about 30 laps," Blaney said of Hornish. "And then he’d start coming back to us. But I was way too tight short-run to go. Just couldn’t stay with him there on that restart. Couldn’t really get to him. Kind of ran out of laps."
Hornish started on the outside of Row 1 and took the lead from pole-sitter Blaney, who missed a shift at the drop of the green flag. Hornish dominated the early proceedings, leading the first 46 laps as Blaney stayed planted on his bumper.
Blaney led laps 47 and 48, then Hornish put the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota back out front.
On Lap 71, Blaney bounced lightly off the Turn 4 wall, as he was growing frustrated in trying to get past Hornish. Finally, 20 laps later, Blaney used a pick by Dakoda Armstrong to get past Hornish and into the lead.
After a restart near the Lap 150 mark, Hornish went to the lead, with Blaney nearby in second place.
Fifty laps later, Blaney was all over the back of Hornish for the lead, finally making the pass for the lead on Lap 207.
On Lap 213, a caution came out for debris in Turn 1. Under the ensuing caution, Michael McDowell took two tires and briefly grabbed the lead from Blaney and Hornish.
After another caution for a Mike Bliss crash, Hornish went back to the point over Blaney on a Lap 229 restart. And that was the race, as Hornish smartly moved away from Blaney’s Ford.