NASCAR's top up-and-cming drivers invaded Iowa Speedway and when the dust settled Max Gresham defeated Ty Dillon for the victory.
By Jason Christley, NASCAR
NEWTON, Iowa -- Max Gresham got the better run off Turn 4 of the final lap - just barely - and beat Ty Dillon to the finish line by .039 seconds to win Sunday's Goodyear Dealers of Iowa 200 at Iowa Speedway. It was the second straight win for the 17-year-old from Griffen, Ga., who added his name to an impressive list of past winners of the annual combination race between the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West.
Joey Logano (2007), Brian Ickler (2008) and Kyle Busch (2009) are past winners of the event, which ended with a green-white-checkered finish in front of a crowd of 20,414.
"That's a very elite group of winners and I'm glad to add my name to it," Gresham said. "I really didn't want to see that last restart because I had a pretty good lead. We were battling with (LaJoie) and (Dillon) and three wide heading into Turn 1. The next lap (Dillon) and I battling really close and rubbing is racing. That was a close finish."
The top four finishers were all East rookies with Darrell Wallace Jr. in third, followed by LaJoie. David Mayhew finished fifth overall and was credited with a West win as the series' top finisher. It's Mayhew's third career win - all at Iowa. He was the top finishing West driver at Iowa last May and won the subsequent West stand-alone event in the fall.
On the final restart, Dillon drove to the inside of leaders Gresham and Corey LaJoie to make it three-wide as they crossed the line to take the white flag. Dillon and Gresham continued side-by-side for the entire final lap with Gresham taking the checkered flag first by just a few feet.
"I can't thank Dillon enough for racing me clean," Gresham said.
"I went to the inside, but (Gresham) was able to get a good run from the high side," Dillon said. "Coming out of (Turn) 4, he had that momentum going coming off the high side and we were so bogged down after dive-bombing into one."
Dillon had a slow qualifying run and started 39th in the 44-car field, but slowly worked his way to the front.
"We put oursleves in a hole. We were just trying to play it smooth, work our way up through there and have a good pit stop which we did," Dillon said. "We've had a rough start to the season. This is awesome for us. We'll get a win."
Likewise, LaJoie started 21st and was in contention for the win on the final restart. After they went three wide, he lost the leaders and then Wallace was able to get by for third.
For Wallace, who won the East opener at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway but wrecked the following week at South Boston (Va.) Speedway, Iowa was a perfect way to bounce back.
"It was pretty crazy; I'll tell you that," Wallace said. "I told myself not to give up too much in three coming to the checkered flag. I held them down there, and was able to pick off Mayhew and LaJoie and get a third-place finish."
Ryan Truex, Eddie MacDonald, Jonathon Gomez, Kevin Swindell and Eric Holmes rounded out the top 10 in Sunday's race.
The Iowa race is one of the showcase events for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, which is the top step on the NASCAR developmental series ladder, and there were plenty of future stars on display. Gresham is a Joe Gibbs Development driver, giving the organization three victories at Iowa. Dillon, 17, is the grandson of NASCAR Sprint Cup car owner Richard Childress. Wallace, 16, drives for Revolution Racing as part of the Drive for Diversity initiative with NASCAR and is also a JGR development driver. LaJoie, 18, is the son of two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie. And Mayhew, 28, has ties with Kevin Harvick, Inc.
The win allowed Gresham to take over the East points lead over defending series champion Truex, 469-456. Wallace moved to third. Cole Whitt, who entered the race with the points lead and led 31 laps, dropped to fourth when a transmission issue ended his day on Lap 139.
Ryan Gifford was second in the points but struggled to a 24th-place finish, ending his run of five consecutive top five finishes. He fell to fifth in the points standings.
Mayhew led the first 72 laps and a race-high 86 overall. Pit stop strategy, however, cost him the lead and he was unable to work his way back to the front. He did take over the West points lead, though, with his finish and Greg Pursley's misfortune. Pursley hit the Turn 2 wall while running second on Lap 130. The two had begun the weekend with the same points total, with Pursley in first on the tiebreaker. Mayhew now leads Holmes, 510-453, with Pursley back in third with 432.
Jonathon Gomez and Josh Combs round out the top five in points.
Brett Moffitt, Gresham's JGR teammate and a native of nearby Grimes, Iowa, led 54 laps. But he wound up 17th after he wrecked on Lap 195. He and LaJoie made contact battling for second when they made contact coming out of Turn 2. That incident set up the final restart.
Two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion Andrew Ranger made his series regular-season debut and finished 28th. He had previously competed in the postseason NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown twice.
The race will air on SPEED on Thursday, May 27 at 1 p.m. ET.
The West will return to the track at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Ore. on June 5, while the East next races at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on June 6.