NASCAR XFINITY Series, American Ethanol E15 250 presented by Enogen at Iowa Speedway Preview

NASCAR XFINITY Series teams take center stage for American Ethanol E15 250 presented by Enogen at Iowa Speedway on Saturday, June 24th at 8:30 pm ET.  Coverage begins at 8 pm ET on FOX Sports 1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Teams will race 218.75 miles over 250 laps with Stage 1 ending on lap 60, Stage 2 on lap 120 and the last stage ending on the last lap 250.

What To Watch For: Elliott Sadler makes his 800th NASCAR national series start. He is one of only 29 drivers to win in all three NASCAR national series.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Cole Custer goes for his fifth straight top-ten finish.

Last season’s Iowa winner Sam Hornish Jr. returns to the 7/8-mile track, this time competing for Team Penske.

Veteran Elliott Sadler Making 800th NASCAR National Series Start

Current XFINITY Series points leader, and JR Motorsports driver, Elliott Sadler will be making his 800th NASCAR national series start – 437 MENCS, 342 NXS, 20 NCWTS – this weekend at Iowa Speedway. Sadler will become the 25th driver in NASCAR national series history to make 800 or more starts.

Sadler made his very first NASCAR national series start in the XFINITY Series at South Boston Speedway on July 7, 1995, for car owner Bell Sadler (his mother). At the ripe age of 20, Sadler wheeled his first ever car to a 15th-place start and an eighth-place finish and hasn’t looked back since.

The veteran from Emporia, Virginia, made his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 1998, for car owner Gary Bechtel. His first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race came on September 7, 2000, at Richmond International Raceway for truck owner Robert Long.

Sadler is one of just 29 drivers in NASCAR history to win in all three of NASCAR’s national series. He has 17 NASCAR national series combined wins in his 799 starts – three in the MENCS, 13 in the NXS and one in the NCWTS.

Sadler has made 12 XFINITY Series starts at Iowa, posting three poles, one win (2012), seven top-fives, 12 top-tens and an impressive average finish of 5.2.     

Sunoco Rookie Spotlight: Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer is looking to earn his fifth consecutive top-ten finish of the season this weekend in the American Ethanol E15 250 at Iowa Speedway. He comes into Iowa fresh off a tenth-place finish last Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. Custer is third in the XFINITY Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, 20 points behind leader William Byron and one point behind second-place Daniel Hemric.

“We’ve been on a pretty good roll for a few weeks now, and hopefully we can keep our consistency going,” said Custer.

While the American Ethanol E15 250 will be Custer’s first XFINITY Series start at Iowa Speedway, it will be his eighth overall start at the 0.875-mile oval. Custer has three Camping World Truck Series starts and four NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts at Iowa.

Custer’s best Camping World Truck Series finish at Iowa is second, earned in 2016. Custer finished .431 behind race-winner William Byron, who he’s now competing against for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the XFINITY Series.

But Custer’s success at Iowa didn’t start in the trucks. Custer scored his first career K&N Pro Series East victory on August 2, 2013, at Iowa from the pole. He took home the checkered at the age of 15 years, 6 months and 10 days, becoming the youngest winner in Pro Series history. In addition to breaking Dylan Kwasniewski’s record for youngest race winner, Custer also became the first driver to lead all 150 laps in the event.

“I guess it’s (Iowa) just a place that’s natural for me and I’ve always had fast cars there,” said Custer. “I grew up running local short tracks, so I was able to familiarize myself with them more than others.” 

Sam Hornish Jr. Returns to Iowa with a Different Team but Wants Same Result

Sam Hornish Jr. won last season’s Iowa Speedway race driving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. But this season the veteran wheelman from Defiance, Ohio, returns behind the wheel of a different team as he rides with Team Penske and the current owner points leading No. 22 Ford team to defend his series win.

The American Ethanol E15 250 is Hornish’s series season debut.

Despite perceived rust from not racing this season, expect Hornish to do well this weekend. In nine series starts at Iowa, he has posted two wins (2014, 2016), six top-fives, seven top-tens and an average finish of 6.3.

Here are a few stats worth noting about the No. 22 car, currently in the XFINITY Series owner standings lead by a mountain-sized margin of 106 points:

  • The No. 22 car has the third-most wins on the all-time XFINITY Series wins list with 51 victories; behind the No. 60 (94 wins) and the No. 18 (62 wins).
  • Seven drivers have contributed to the No. 22 car’s win total over the years – Brad Keselowski (28 wins), Rick Mast (nine), Joey Logano (six), Ryan Blaney (four), AJ Allmendinger (two), Bobby Allison and Kurt Busch (each have one).
  • Since the beginning of the 2012 season (last five seasons), no other car number has won more races than the No. 22 team with 29 checkered flags; followed by the No. 54 with 28 wins and the No. 18 with 22 wins during that same timeframe. 

Halfway Point in the Regular Season: 2017 has Delivered

At this point in the season it’s always fun to look at how the competition has fared thus far compared to years past. Below are some stats showcasing the great action we have seen on track in 2017 through the first 13 races:

  • The 2017 season has had ten different winners; which is the most since 2006, the last season to see ten different winners through the first 13 races.
  • Since the inception of electronic scoring (1996) in the XFINITY Series, the 2017 season has had the closest average margin of victory at 0.445 second through the first 13 races of the season. The second-closest average margin of victory through the first 13 races was in 2009 at 0.577 second.
  • A large part of the closest margin of victory record is due to the series having the most races (11) since the inception of electronic scoring (1996) with a margin of victory less than a second. The previous record was ten races with MOVs of less than a second back in 2000 and 1996.
  • The first 13 races of the season have had an average number of leaders per race of 6.38; which is the most since 2013 when the average number of leaders was 8.0.
  • This season has also had an average of 13 lead changes per race; which is the most since 2013, a season that had an average of 15 per race through the first 13 races. 

Blast from the Past for Regan Smith in the Booth

Regan Smith will make his television booth debut Saturday for FOX Sports 1’s live coverage of the XFINTIY Series race at Iowa Speedway, and will have a familiar voice in his ear to guide him through his rookie telecast. Mark Smith (no relation), FOX Sports’ NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES race producer, will hang around Iowa Speedway an extra day this weekend to produce the XFINITY SERIES race.

The two, friends for 29 years, grew up in neighboring small towns in upstate New York, initially meeting when Regan’s family began frequenting Happy Days, a drive-through restaurant owned and operated by Mark’s family in Cato.  Regan’s family, hailing from Cato, made a tradition of celebrating their special occasions at Happy Days, beginning when Regan was four years old.

Click here to read the FOX Sports release, detailing Regan and Mark’s friendship.

Familiar Faces Back In The NASCAR XFINITY Series Garage: Several familiar drivers will be returning to the series this weekend, such as Camping World Truck Series star Christopher Bell, who will be piloting the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Bell will be making his second series start for JGR this weekend. His series debut came at Charlotte earlier this season where he finished in the top-five. But that is not the only new face in the JGR stable,

Kyle Benjamin is also back for Joe Gibbs Racing this weekend. Benjamin will be strapped into the No. 18 JGR Toyota, the car that won this race last season with driver Sam Hornish Jr. behind the wheel.

Bill France Jr.’s grandson, driver Ben Kennedy, who is sharing a limited schedule with GMS Racing and Richard Childress Racing, will be back in the No. 2 RCR Chevrolet on Saturday. Kennedy’s last start with RCR yielded a top-five finish earlier this season at Talladega. Kennedy has one series start at Iowa, last season for RCR, in which he started sixth and finished tenth.

Tyler Reddick is back in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet this weekend at Iowa. Reddick has a lot of pressure to perform in the No. 42 this season, as his teammate Kyle Larson has won three times already in 2017.