NASCAR at Iowa: Lineup, start time, predictions, preview, picks, how to watch the inaugural Iowa Corn 350 (2024)

As perhaps the greatest cultural and economic epicenter of American agriculture, there is a certain allure to the cornfields of Iowa that is accompanied by some degree of American sports mythos. Though lacking a team in one of America's four major sports leagues, the state was the setting for Kevin Costner's 1989 baseball film Field of Dreams, an idea which has spilled over into real life with Major League Baseball now playing an annual game at the Field of Dreams in Dubuque County.

Racing, too, has its own field of dreams. In the early 2000s, the Iowa Speedway was brought to life from the vision of NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, who designed a small, progressively-banked oval that provided multi-groove racing and what amounted to a driver's ideal racetrack. From the time it opened in 2006, many dreamed of a Cup race at this track -- and it's finally here.

For the very first time, the NASCAR Cup Series visits the Iowa Speedway for the inaugural Iowa Corn 350, bringing the highest level of stock car racing to this popular 0.875-mile D-shaped oval. Iowa first rose to prominence as a mainstay on the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series calendars from 2009 to 2019, and it has also hosted ARCA cars, IndyCars, and other open wheel series, becoming a popular stop on each tour that took to the track.

Many of today's stars of NASCAR have special ties to Iowa -- including Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Chase Elliot and others -- who earned their very first wins at this track at some point on their climb up the NASCAR ladder. Now, while they'll all hope to race at Iowa for many years to come, they face one opportunity this weekend to become the very first driver to roll a Cup car into Iowa's Victory Lane.

How to Watch the NASCAR Cup Series at Iowa

Date: Sun., Jun. 16
Location: Iowa Speedway -- Newton, Iowa
Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV: USA
Stream: fubo (try for free)

What to Watch

NASCAR completed a repave of the surface at Iowa Speedway earlier this month to both corners.

The @HyVee structure that is above turn 1 for the IndyCar race will remain there for the NASCAR Cup Series event in June. No structures going up in the infield for Cup weekend. pic.twitter.com/Q3FOhc780s

— Always Race Day (@AlwaysRaceDay) May 28, 2024

NASCAR bringing the Cup Series to Iowa for the very first time comes with an unusual -- and somewhat controversial -- change to the speedway. In order to address problem areas of the track's surface, NASCAR elected to conduct a partial repave of Iowa, laying down new asphalt in the bottom lanes at both ends of the racetrack that also extend slightly up the track in certain areas. NASCAR senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer told SiriusXM on Tuesday that there wasn't enough time to do a full repave and that replacing the track's old asphalt was not the sanctioning body's preference, but that he did not anticipate the uneven surface would cause any issues.

"We're confident the repairs are to a high level, and it's not going to be an issue and we're still going to have some multi groove racing around the racetrack," Sawyer said, per RACER. "We're looking forward to getting out there and getting cars on the racetrack and seeing exactly how things unfold."

Drivers, of course, seldom enjoy a track getting repaved, particularly a place like Iowa which became so popular for its multiple grooves combined with a surface that became increasingly worn over the initial 10-year period that NASCAR raced there. Christopher Bell lamented that the partial repave "ruined" Iowa's corners and would turn the facility into a one-groove racetrack.

"Repaving the bottom half of the corners is gonna make it where the top half is completely unusable. But even the second groove, you move up to try and get grip, and with new asphalt there's not a need to move up," Bell told reporters at Sonoma. "It's definitely gonna be a different race than what old Iowa was."

Exactly how prevalent the repaved portions of asphalt are, and whether or not the uneven surface allows for two or three-wide racing, will go a long way in determining the level of both driver and fan satisfaction with Iowa's inaugural Cup date.

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  • Negotiations between NASCAR and its race teams on a new charter agreement continue to grow more contentious, as multiple team owners told the Associated Press that the sanctioning body's most recent proposal on a renewal of NASCAR's franchising model "was one of the worst offers yet". Among the complaints are that NASCAR has made rollbacks from previous offers, is still looking to tie the length of charters to its media rights deal as opposed to making charters permanent, and that NASCAR's most recent proposal includes a provision that would allow NASCAR and/or the France family itself to purchase charters.

    According to Sports Business Journal, NASCAR's latest charter offer also outlines a team cost cap as well as rules that spell out the terms under which NASCAR can permit private equity firms to buy into a charter. According to ESPN, the assertion of NASCAR CEO Jim France to teams is that they must accept the terms of a seven-year charter plan as the sanctioning body "can only support you as long as we are being supported" by its media rights deal.

  • During an appearance on the Dale Jr Download, racing legend and 1967 Daytona 500 champion Mario Andretti seemed to hint at the possibility of Andretti Global expanding into Cup after building one of the most powerful teams in IndyCar. The Andretti team, which is owned by Mario's son Michael Andretti, has won four IndyCar titles and five Indianapolis 500s but was recently rejected from an effort to field a Formula 1 team.

    "With Michael being involved in every aspect of our sport, that gives me reason to find a home no matter where I go," the elder Andretti said. "Pretty soon, it's going to be a home even in Cup, and I hope I'm still alive for that."

    The Andretti family's involvement in NASCAR dates back to the late 1960s and Mario's lone Daytona 500 victory, with the most notable member of the family to race stock cars being the late John Andretti who earned two Cup Series wins in a career spanning from 1993 to 2010. Marco Andretti, Michael's son, has made five starts between the Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series since 2022.

  • RFK Racing announced that veteran road racer Joey Hand will be the next driver for their Stage 60 program, taking the wheel of the No. 60 Ford at the Chicago Street Course. The No. 60 has previously been driven this year by David Ragan in the Daytona 500 and V8 Supercars driver Cam Waters last week at Sonoma.

Pick to Win

Christopher Bell (+380) – When I asked him after the Coca-Cola 600 what his outlook for June was given the tracks he had coming up, Christopher Bell boldly and unprompted said that he didn't know "how anyone could be considered more of a favorite than me" when it came to Iowa. The sportsbooks agree with him -- Bell's +380 odds are the best of any driver this weekend -- and there's ample ammunition to back up that confidence.

Bell's numbers at Iowa, where he made his NASCAR debut in a Craftsman Truck Series race back in 2015, are excellent. After earning two top fives and three top 10s in three Truck starts there, Bell finished either second or first in four-straight Xfinity starts at Iowa, which included back-to-back wins that almost became three wins in a row. In the process, Bell led 668 laps in five Iowa Xfinity starts, including in July 2019 when he led 234 of 250 laps only to get outdueled late by Chase Briscoe.

Consider also that Bell was among the participants in Iowa's Goodyear tire test, and there's little reason to not pick him this weekend.

NASCAR at Iowa: Lineup, start time, predictions, preview, picks, how to watch the inaugural Iowa Corn 350 (2024)
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