Two drastically different winners emerged from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series battle at Iowa Speedway between its East and West divisions Saturday. One was in desperate need of a career-defining victory. The other was simply looking to carry a month’s worth of momentum another step further. Mission accomplished for both drivers as they head back to their respective coasts.
Brandon McReynolds was the overall winner of the Casey’s General Stores 150, taking the lead from William Byron with 8 laps to go and then fending off Byron on an ensuing restart. It was the first career West Series victory for McReynolds, who admitted that he was surprised his car owner, Bill McAnally had been patient with him during the struggles of his first year with the team.
Byron hung on to finish second and as the highest East Series driver earned a series victory. It was his second K&N East victory in recent weeks in addition to a CARS Super Late Model Series victory last Saturday over Chase Elliott at Hickory.
Understandably, McReynolds exuded relief after the race while Byron showed a subdued dejection from having a race slip away. Byron had led the majority of the race, but McReynolds had slowly reeled him in through lapped traffic as the laps began to wind down and made his winning move on a restart on lap 142.
“It was definitely hard fought, that’s for sure,” McReynolds said as he cleared the red and yellow Victory Lane confetti from his hair. “In those short runs, it was really critical to have clean air. I felt like whoever got a good jump on those last restarts was going to come away with the victory. William did a really good job. But I learned a little something from Kasey Kahne [from Friday’s NASCAR Truck race] and saw how he sidedrafted guys. I think some of that helped.”
The final restart came after the race was redflagged to save laps after a Rico Abreu crash. McReynolds admitted he thought a lot about how he had lost a race last year at Roseville in similar circumstances. He knew though that he had to keep it out of his mind because of how much was on the line for him at Iowa.
“I’ve lost a lot more races than I’ve won that way. I can be a bit of a head case,” he added chuckling. “But this win is so big for me. I mean, I thanked Bill [McAnally] as soon as I crossed the start-finish line for not firing me. It was crazy last year because the 99 [team care] would win no matter who drove that thing. We though just couldn’t shake it. All that pressure, all that time, all that bad luck, it was starting to add up. But I knew I could drive. Bill’s told me there’s a reason he kept me in it and that’s because he just believed in me. He wanted to prove to me, to the fans, to the media, that we could do it together.
After Tucson, even though we didn’t finish that good, I knew we have the right team.”
Byron for his part kept on a smile even though he admitted some disappointment after watching the overall Iowa win slip away under ten to go.
“We just fell off a little bit at the end,” explained Byron, “but I’m still so proud of my team. I’d never seen this track before today, so we had to keep adjusting on the car throughout practice. In the race, we struggled a bit in lapped traffic. We just got tight there. I think if we had clear track, we could have kept him behind us by a few carlengths. But that’s just coulda, shoulda, woulda. He was definitely getting to us there right before the caution, but I think we were still even enough that I could have held him off without that restart.”
Despite picking up three big wins in the last month and a half, Byron says his goals for the rest of the season are not changing even as the championship becomes more of a viable possibility.
“Honestly, I’m just focusing on making good impressions right now. I’m in this series to show I can do. There’s a lot to learn out here, hopefully getting prepared to run in the XFINITY Series like Ben Rhodes or Brandon Jones, who get to race here tomorrow. So I’m just taking it week to week and learning. It’s really valuable to just focus on learning and improving, and obviously that’s what’s getting me here.”
Ronnie Bassett, Chad Little, and Christopher Bell rounded out the overall top-five. It was an interesting day for Bell, who wrecked on the very first lap of practice. His team worked hard to get him back out in second practice, but the team thought they had bent the rear clip too badly to run very competitively in the event. However, he made a late charge, going from 11th to 5th in the final 20 circuits.
Casey’s General Stores 150 Results
|2||9||William Byron *||150|
|3||4||Ronnie Bassett Jr.||150|
|5||54||Christopher Bell *||150|
|6||5||JJ.. Haley *||150|
|7||7||Noah Gragson *||150|
|9||27||Kyle Benjamin *||150|
|13||36||David Garbo Jr.*||150|
|16||21||Alex Schutte *||150|
|17||72||Gracin Raz *||150|
|20||91||Ryan Partridge *||150|
|21||33||Nicole Behar *||150|
|22||2||Collin Cabre *||150|
|23||51||Dalton Sargeant *||149|
|27||45||Christian Celaya *||147|
|28||14||Matt Levin *||145|
|30||98||Rico Abreu *||142|
|31||66||Devon Amos *||142|
|32||30||Ron Norman *||135|
|34||44||Dillon Bassett *||133|
|35||31||Johnny White *||101|
|38||6||Rob Powers *||55|
|39||84||Rich DeLong III||5|
— Story by Tim Quievryn, Southeast Editor & 51’s Third Turn // @thethirdturn
— Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR