Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won Sunday’s John Deere Dealers 250 at Iowa Speedway for his first career victory in the Nationwide Series.
Making his 51st start, Stenhouse, 23, outdueled Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski, the only Sprint Cup Series regulars in the race, for the win.
“We had a shot at a few races earlier this year, but they would get away from us at the end,” Stenhouse said. “Today we stayed strong all day long. In other races we have started fast but didn’t finish. It was good to get that done here.”
Stenhouse’s win also was the first by a full-time Nationwide-only driver since Justin Allgaier’s victory at Bristol in March 2010.
Edwards, who won Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte, finished second. Keselowski, Reed Sorenson and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top five. Kenny Wallace, making his 500th Nationwide Series start, finished sixth, followed by Michael McDowell, Allgaier, James Buescher and Austin Dillon.
“I am happy for (Stenhouse), but I’m also a little frustrated,” Edwards said. “I asked for some adjustments I shouldn’t have, and we got dialed out. I was too busy driving and should have paid more attention to what the car was doing.”
Stenhouse took the lead for the first time on Lap 165 of 250, and the lead went back and forth between Stenhouse and Edwards, his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, seven times before Drew Herring took the lead on Lap 208 during green-flag pit stops.
Although Stenhouse, Edwards and Keselowski pitted together, Stenhouse returned to the track in the seventh position. But he made up ground over the final 40 laps, recapturing the lead with 18 laps to go.
“When I drove the car hard, it could take it,” Stenhouse said. “It felt good having past champions (Edwards and Keselowski) behind me, but you also know you can’t make a mistake because they will take advantage of it.
“It feels good that a Nationwide regular won this race. I don’t think we will be the only Nationwide driver to win this year.”
With qualifying cancelled Saturday because of weather, the race lined up according to owner points. Herring, driving the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, started on the pole and led the first 37 laps. McDowell, in JGR’s No. 18, then took the point for 18 laps.
It wasn’t until after Sorenson led the next 77 laps that Keselowski and Edwards would take the point, with Keselowski leading 30 of the 31 laps before Stenhouse grabbed the lead for the first time.
“It was a really good race from where I sat,” Keselowski said. “It is a great track to race, and it was good to see a Nationwide regular win it. We had a decent run, and I’m proud of my team and our results.”
Stenhouse moved up a spot in the points standings to third, one behind second-place Sorenson and eight behind leader Sadler.
Stenhouse is the seventh driver to win a Nationwide race for owner Jack Roush, who picked up his 116th win in the series.
“I am honored to be here with Ricky and Mike (crew chief Mike Kelley) knowing how hard they have worked to get here,” Roush said. “You will be hearing about them for years to come. I won’t be here in the end, but I was here for Day 1.”