Three in a row for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Iowa Speedway

Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images for NASCAR

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led 209 of the 250 laps in the Pioneer Hi-Bred 250 and while he relinquished the lead on a few occasions, no one seriously challenged the No. 6 Cargill Ford for his third win in a row at Iowa Speedway. With his third win of the season, Stenhouse Jr. increased his points lead over second-place finisher Elliott Sadler, who must be heartily tired of seeing Stenhouse's back bumper.

Sam Hornish Jr quickly took the lead on the first lap when polesitter Sadler stumbled out of the gate. Hornish led the first 30 laps before being overtaken by Stenhouse Jr. The longest-ever period of consecutive green flag laps run at Iowa Speedway followed, until at Lap 73 caution flew for Eric McClure's No. 14 Reynolds Wrap car, driven by Jeff Green while McClure recuperates. Green was the first of several drivers to experience tire failure accompanied by a crash.

Danica Patrick risked going a lap down in 15th place, but got the free pass. Unfortunately during the ensuing long green run, the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevy melted a bead on the right front tire and Patrick hit the wall. The damage proved to be terminal and Patrick's solid run was over.

On the restart, Cole Whitt in the No. 88 Chevy took the lead by virtue of having only taken 2 tires. Sadler fought Whitt for the lead but both were passed by Stenhouse. Kurt Busch in the No. 54 Monster Toyota, qualified by Drew Herring, showed that he might be able to compete for second, along with Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Advocare Chevy and Justin Allgaier in the No. 31 Brandt Chevy.

Lap 180 saw Tayler Malsam smack the the wall because of a tire issue and Michael McDowell drew a penalty for speeding at pit road entrance. When the race returned to green, Kurt Busch muscled his way to the bottom of the track and into the lead, but quickly got loose and got passed by Sadler and Justin Allgaier.

Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images for NASCAR
Just twenty laps later, Travis Pastrana's third Nationwide Series start met with bad luck when the No. 99 Boost Mobile's engine stalled and he had to be pushed into the pits, then pushed to the garage.  Pastrana said it felt like a fuel line problem because the car sputtered a lot before it died. His assessment proved to be correct and he returned to the track 22 laps down.

Over the last 50 laps of the race, second through fifth places changed back and forth a number of times, but no one could get close enough to Stenhouse to cause any alarm in the No. 6 camp.

As the white flag flew, Kurt Busch reminded onlookers that his brother isn't the only one with car control skills. McDowell had his nose under Busch, Busch tried to keep him from passing and McDowell booted Busch into the wall sideways. Busch saved it and didn't even bring out a caution.

In the end, it was Stenhouse Jr., Sadler, McDowell, Dillon, and Allgaier in the top five. The race saw nine lead changes among six drivers, and punctuated by only 4 cautions for 27 laps during the 2 hours and 2 minutes of running time, with a margin of victory of 1.465 seconds.

Also of note, Darrell Wallace Jr. made his first Nationwide start today and finished ninth, despite having never made pit stops before. "We executed well on the pit stops, that was my biggest worry, pit stops."

The complete finishing order: 

Pos Driver
1 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2 Elliott Sadler
3 Michael McDowell
4 Austin Dillon
5 Kurt Busch
6 Justin Allgaier
7 Cole Whitt
8 Parker Kligerman
9 Darrell Wallace Jr.
10 Brendan Gaughan
11 Brian Scott
12 Sam Hornish Jr.
13 Brad Sweet
14 Michael Annett
15 Mike Bliss
16 Steve Arpin
17 Jason Bowles
18 Erik Darnell
19 Joe Nemechek
20 Casey Roderick
21 Mike Wallace
22 Johanna Long
23 Jeremy Clements
24 Jamie Dick
25 Timmy Hill
26 Travis Pastrana
27 T.J. Bell
28 Daryl Harr
29 Tayler Malsam
30 Danica Patrick
31 Morgan Shepherd
32 Jeff Green
33 Joey Gase
34 Josh Richards
35 Mike Harmon
36 John Jackson
37 Tim Andrews
38 Matt Frahm
39 Michael Guerity
40 Blake Koch
41 Kevin Lepage
42 Tim Schendel
43 Chase Miller

And the top 35 in points: 
1   Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
2   Elliott Sadler
3   Austin Dillon
4   Sam Hornish, Jr.
5   Cole Whitt
6   Michael Annett
7   Justin Allgaier
8   Mike Bliss
9   Joe Nemechek
10   Danica Patrick
11   Tayler Malsam
12   Brian Scott
13   Mike Wallace
14   Jason Bowles
15   Jeremy Clements
16   Trevor Bayne
17   Erik Darnell
18   T.J. Bell
19   Eric McClure
20   Johanna Long
21   Kenny Wallace
22   Blake Koch
23   Benny Gordon
24   Timmy Hill
25   Danny Efland
26   Ryan Truex
27   Morgan Shepherd
28   Robert Richardson
29   Jamie Dick
30   Casey Roderick
31   Joey Gase
32   Brad Sweet
33   Tim Schendel
34   Travis Pastrana
35   Steve Arpin

Next up, Charlotte Motor Speedway on May. 26, 2012.

Three in a row for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Iowa Speedway Three in a row for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Iowa Speedway Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Sunday, May 20, 2012 Rating: 5