Ryan Preece wins Xfinity Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa in overtime finish

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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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NASCAR mourns Kobe Bryant

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Joining their brethren in other sports, the NASCAR world took to social media upon learning the tragic news of the death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, killed Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Bryant had met a number of NASCAR drivers in his career, including Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano. They were among a number of NASCAR notables who took to social media to mourn Bryant:

 

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Chad Knaus and wife expecting second child

Photo courtesy Brooke Knaus official Instagram account
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Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion crew chief Chad Knaus and wife Brooke are expecting their second child.

Brooke made the announcement Saturday on her Instagram account.

The couple, already parents to one-year-old son Kip, will soon be adding a daughter to their growing family.

Brooke Knaus’s Instagram post said the baby is due in July.

Kip figured prominently in the baby revelation, coming at the end of mom and dad’s ski run while vacationing in Telluride, Colorado:

 

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Kyle Larson flips, misses finals of Australia’s biggest sprint car race

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Kyle Larson’s hope of following up last week’s Chili Bowl win with a triumph in Australia’s prestigious Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic fell far short Sunday.

Larson’s bid to race his way into the 24-car finals of the three-day race at Premier Speedway in Warrnambool, Australia, ended when he flipped (uninjured) on the opening lap of a last-chance qualifying heat race earlier in the evening.

Instead of being one of the featured drivers in the Classic’s 40-lap finale – the largest and most popular sprint car race of the year in the land down under – Larson was left to watch the event from the pits and cheer on Dyson Motorsport teammate and fellow American Carson Macedo.

Even that didn’t go very well, as Macedo flipped his own sprint car on the first lap of the Classic, resulting in a last-place finish. The highest finishing American was Cory Eliason, who ended up fourth.

Meanwhile, it was an all-Australian podium, with James McFadden winning the Classic for the second time in his career, followed by James Veal and Kerry Madsen.

In eight days, Larson went from capturing what he called the biggest win ever of his racing career on all levels – the Chili Bowl in his 13th try last Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma – to nothing but bad luck and utter frustration throughout his Australian journey.

Larson’s first race on Wednesday in the King’s Challenge at Borderline Speedway was rained out.

Then, in the first night of the Classic on Friday, Larson wrecked heavily in his first heat race, including flipping (he was uninjured). After his team repaired his car, Larson went back on the track, only to suffer a blown engine that knocked him out of contention to race in that evening’s feature event.

After not being on the schedule to race in Night 2 of the Classic on Saturday, Larson had one last chance to make Sunday’s featured championship event.

A total of 80 drivers battled it out in the B, C and D Mains for the eight remaining spots in the A Main, but Larson would end up not being one of those — as can be seen in the second line of the following tweet by his team:

Larson now returns to the United States to prepare for the Daytona 500 on February 16.

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Kyle Busch feeling like ‘the new guy’ during his Rolex 24 debut at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Busch was looking forward to his first stint at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The two-time Cup champion was less enthused about his second turn behind the wheel in the IMSA season opener. Busch will climb back into the No. 14 Lexus RCF GT3 at 2 a.m. Sunday, just past the midpoint of the endurance race classic at Daytona International Speedway.

“That’s going to suck, yeah,” Busch deadpanned. “That’s exactly when I told them I did not want to run, and I got it.  Thank you very much.

“(I’m) the new guy.  I pulled the short straw.”

Click here to read more about how Busch felt about his AIM Vasser Sullivan car.