Saturday's motors: Rookie Byron snags first Xfinity win
Newton, Iowa — It took rookie William Byron just a week to get over one of the most brutal losses of his young career.
The 19-year-old Byron grabbed the lead with just over 20 laps left and won the NASCAR Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway on Saturday night for his first series victory.
A seven-time winner last year in the Truck Series, Byron broke through just a week after an agonizingly close loss to Monster Energy Cup star Denny Hamlin at Michigan.
“Last week was just exciting to be that close to a win,” said Byron, who won the Truck race at Iowa in 2016. “It gave us a lot of momentum going into this week.”
Ryan Sieg was second in the stand-alone race with the Cup regulars in Sonoma for Sunday’s race. Tyler Reddick was third, followed by Ross Chastain and Dakoda Armstrong.
Christopher Bell led 152 laps in just his second career start in the series before a late wreck cost relegated him to 16th. He led a race-high 99 laps in the Truck race Friday night.
Sieg, also in search of his first win, was on Byron’s tail on the final restart and nearly overtook him.
But this time Byron, who led 78 laps in JR Motorsports’ No. 9 Chevrolet, was the driver with just enough to hang on.
“I gave him all I could give,” Sieg said. “He was just a little stronger, a little faster. I did all I could do.”
For Byron, the victory was quick redemption after Hamlin beat him by 0.012 seconds.
“To get second last week kind of hurt because we were that close. But I feel like it gave us extra motivation,” Byron said.
As for Bell, he suffered bad fortune for the second night in a row.
Bell, who finished fourth in his debut at Charlotte, won the pole and the first stage. But early in the second stage, Sam Hornish Jr. — who was hoping to win at Iowa in his season debut like he did in 2016 — rubbed fenders with Bell.
Hornish popped a tire and slammed backward into the wall, ending his night.
“I felt like we were heading in the direction we needed,” said Hornish, who’ll return to Iowa Speedway with Team Penske next month. “This is not how we wanted it to go at all.”
Brendan Gaughan took advantage of a late restart to win the second stage and pick up his first playoff points of the season. Bell soon regained control, but he was clipped by Brennan Poole and sustained heavy damage.
Series leader Elliott Sadler, making his 800th career start, qualified fourth but was sent to the back of the field for an unapproved adjustment. Sadler finished eighth after an up and down night.
Matt Tifft was 22nd in his return to Iowa, the first race he missed in 2016 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.
At Sonoma, California, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray swept the front row in qualifying at Sonoma Raceway to give Chip Ganassi Racing a 1-2 start on the wine country road course.
Larson turned a lap at 95.295 mph and the points leader just nipped his teammate, who ran his qualifying lap at 95.204 in the Ganassi Chevrolet
Larson is coming off a Cup win last week at Michigan and is looking to make it two consecutive wins. McMurray is seeking his first win of the season.
Martin Truex Jr. qualified third in a Toyota for Furniture Row Racing, and Kyle Busch was fourth in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
At Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Team Penske will have a stranglehold on the first two rows in the IndyCar race at Road America.
Helio Castroneves won the pole, turning a lap in 1 minute, 41.30 seconds at 142.649 mph. It was his 50th career pole, and third of the season.
Castroneves edged teammate Will Power by 0.06 seconds. Power won the race last year at the rural Wisconsin road course.
Two more Penske drivers will start in the second row Sunday after Josef Newgarden qualified third and Simon Pagenaud fourth. The Chevy-powered Penske cars also turned in the fastest practice times most of the weekend.
Points leader Scott Dixon will start fifth, with Graham Rahal sixth.
At Baku, Azerbaijan, Lewis Hamilton took a brilliant pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ahead of Valtteri Bottas, with Mercedes securing a convincing 1-2 as rival Ferrari lagged behind.
Bottas led qualifying and then set an even quicker time on his final lap — only for Hamilton to beat him by nearly half a second.
The British driver’s 66th pole moves him one ahead of F1 great Ayrton Senna and just two behind Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 68.
Raikkonen qualified third ahead of his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, the championship leader.
After three difficult practice sessions, qualifying also proved tough.
With three minutes remaining a red flag came up, halting the session, after Daniel Ricciardo clipped the wall with the left side of his Red Bull coming out of Turn 6 — prompting an expletive from the Australian driver.
At Norwalk, Ohio, Matt Hagan topped Funny Car qualifying in the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals with his track-record time.
Hagan took his third No. 1 qualifier of the season with a 3.865-second pass at 333.33 mph in a Dodge Charger R/T.
Doug Kalitta led the Top Fuel qualifiers, Greg Anderson was the fastest in Pro Stock, and Matt Smith topped the Pro Stock Motorcycle field.
Kalitta broke the track time record Friday night with a 3.709 at 327.43. Anderson ran a 6.584 at 210.24 pass in a Chevrolet Camaro during the fourth and final session, and Smith had a 6.824 at 196.16 on a Victory Gunner in his third qualifying run.