NEWTON, Iowa –Brad Keselowski made a busy weekend well worth the trouble.
The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion was the lone driver making frequent trips between Central Iowa and Pocono Raceway, where he’ll compete in Sunday’s premier series event.
Keselowski will be toting a gas pump trophy back with him after winning the Fifth Annual NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 Saturday night at Iowa Speedway. He has won the last three Nationwide starts he has made for Penske Racing, despite not having a Sprint Cup victory this season.
Keselowski made his move after the third caution of the race, starting seventh with less than 50 laps remaining. As Trevor Bayne and Brian Vickers were battling side-by-side for the lead, Keselowski made his move.
He shot through the leaders, moving quickly to the front and grabbing the lead on lap 216.
Not only did Keselowski overcome the other 39 drivers in the field, but he persevered through a number of issues during the race. He received an early early penalty after running in the top five with a shot to jump a spot or two during a pit stop under caution. Keselowski, however, was assessed an outside tire violation and fell to the rear of the field for the restart.
He also suffered an overheating problem that hindered him midway through the race. He remained patient before taking the lead and pulling away from the field. It was Keselowski’s first win at Iowa Speedway since 2009.
Penske Racing managed to sweep the top two spots with Sam Hornish Jr. placing second. Vickers was third.
For the second straight race, Austin Dillon led the majority of the race but failed to seal the victory. He led 116 laps, but fell back to fifth for the final restart. It resembled his performance in June’s DuPont Pioneer 250 where he led 207 of 250 and was runner-up to Trevor Bayne.
Dillon decided to take four tires when many of the leaders — including Vickers, Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler and Bayne — took two tires to move ahead of him. A week ago Dillon had put the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series points lead for the first time since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2003 and his fourth-place finish kept in front of the season standings.
Drew Herring claimed his first NASCAR Nationwide Series pole in 11 career races Saturday afternoon, joined in the front row with Regan Smith. He posted the top speed, coming in at 135. 367 miles per hour.
It was just his second top-10 start of the season for the 26-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing driver. He started ninth here for Nationwide’s DuPont Pioneer 250 in June. He finished 11th in that race.
Herring paced the field for the first 26 laps, surrendering the lead to Smith and dropping back. He spun out on lap 55, bringing out the race’s first caution and ending the longest green-flag stretch to start a race this season.
Rookie Kyle Larson placed fifth, leaving the track to compete later Saturday night in the sprint car Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville Raceway.
Ryan Gifford made his Nationwide debut at Iowa Speedway and finished ninth.