The biggest gamble of Ryan Preece‘s career paid off.
The 26-year-old fended off teammate Kyle Benjamin in a two-lap overtime finish to win the U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway, claiming his first career Xfinity Series win.
A modified star in the Northeast, Preece’s victory came in the second of a two-race deal with Joe Gibbs Racing. After running the entire series last year with a lower-budget team, Preece used his sponsorship money for the two races with JGR this year.
MORE: Race results
MORE: Points report
“I don’t even know what to say, ” an emotional Preece told NBC before thanking all those who made his two-race stint in the No. 20 possible. “I’m so lost for words right now. I don’t even know what to say. This is what emotion is, I can tell you that. I thought this race would never end, that’s for sure. But man, nothing’s going to beat today.”
Preece took the lead for good on a Lap 177 restart. He had to fend off his challengers on two late restarts, the final one caused by a spin from JGR teammate Matt Tifft with four laps to go.
Benjamin who was in his fourth scheduled Xfinity race with JGR, could only pull even with Preece on the restarts before Preece’s car pulled cleared.
“I think our car was better on the long run there,” Benjamin told NBC. “I didn’t want to see the caution. … I was real surprised at the fire-off speed we had.”
Following Preece were Benjamin, Brian Scott, Brennan Poole and Cole Custer.
Preece, who never finished better than 10th in his 36 Xfinity races before this season, finished in the top two of both of his races with JGR – he placed second at New Hampshire two weeks ago. On Saturday, Preece led a race-high 141 laps
Scott, who retired from full-time NASCAR racing after last year, was making his first start of the year in the No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing. He challenged for the lead on the next-to-last restart, hoping for his first career win in 209 starts.
“I came out with one goal and that was to win and gave it a good shot,” Scott told NBC. “We weren’t very good in the second segment, but we made a big adjustment at the end of Segment 2. From then on, I knew if we could battle back from the loss of track position and it came down to a long run that we had a shot. The restarts at the end were not what I wanted to see I thought, but it ended up working to our advantage. It was fun. It was fun to be back out there. Congrats to Ryan Preece.”
STAGE 1 WINNER: Ryan Prece
STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier
WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: J.J. Yeley finished sixth in the first race since the passing of TriStar Motorsports owner Mark Smith earlier in the week. It is Yeley’s first top-10 finish of the season and his first since October 2016 at Kansas Speedway … Daniel Hemric bounced back from an unscheduled pit stop in Stage 1 to finish seventh … Blake Koch placed eighth for his first top 10 since Bristol in April. It’s his second of the year.
WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Justin Allgaier led 106 laps but was the only leader to stay out during the first round of pits stops in the final stage. Without a timely caution, Allgaier was forced to pit for fuel under green just a few laps before a caution. He finished 20th, two laps down … Michael Annett had an ignition box problem during pit stop following the end of Stage 2 and finished 33rd … Rookie Spencer Gallagher brought out the second caution due to an accident on Lap 171 when he lost a tire and hit the Turn 4 wall. He finished 37th … In his second start of the year, Sam Hornish Jr. lost a tire and crashed exiting Turn 4 on Lap 231, he finished 34th.
NOTABLE: Four different drivers have won in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing this year: Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Preece.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “What I’m going to take away from this is I did it. I proved it to myself and this is awesome,” winner Ryan Preece.
WHAT’S NEXT: Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International at 2 p.m. ET on Aug. 5 on NBCSN.
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