NEWTON, IOWA –
On Saturday, the NASCAR Xfinity Series made its second trip to the 7/8th mile Iowa Speedway for the running of the US Cellular 250. Heading into the weekend, JD Motorsports with Gary Keller (JDM) brought a driver lineup composed of regulars Stephen Leicht and Garrett Smithley, in addition to newcomers Ryan Repko (one previous start) and Ryan Vargas (who made his series debut). The team was looking forward to returning to Newton, because it has historically been one of JDM’s best tracks result wise.
Stephen Leicht, driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet, returned to Iowa with some unfinished business from June where he retired early due to lost brakes. Leicht started the race from the 25th position, and started to settle his way in early on. By the end of Stage 1, he placed 22nd, but moved up significantly through Stage 2 to finish 16th. Crew Chief Paul Clapprood opted to play some strategy near the end of the race by saving a set of tires in the pits in case of a late caution.
Indeed, the caution came with Stephen on the lead lap, and it played out perfectly for the crew. Unfortunately for the No. 4, the right rear tire fell off as he left the pit stall, putting him one lap down. Leicht recovered to finish 16th, but the crew was left thinking what could have been as he would have been the only car on fresh tires at the end of the race. Stephen remains 19th in the points standings heading into Watkins Glen.
Ryan Vargas, driver of the No. 15 Cranio Care Bears Chevrolet, made a statement in his NXS debut. The La Mirada, California native proved he belonged in the series early on by qualifying the best out of the four JDM drivers in 23rd, and learned quickly about how these cars drive. In Stage 1, Vargas finished 26th, and like Leicht, he moved up several positions in Stage 2 to finish 18th. As the race progressed, Ryan stayed on the lead lap for a significant period of time, ultimately coming home with a 17th place finish. Vargas matched the season best finish for the No. 15 Chevrolet, and in the process, turned plenty of heads.
Garrett Smithley, driver of the No. 0 Chevrolet, fought through adversity all weekend at Iowa. Smithley qualified 35th in the #NumberNuthin Camaro, and had to battle a motor that was down on power for a good portion of the race. Stage 1 showed Garrett in 31st, with Stage 2 ending in a 27th place finish. The Ligonier, PA native was able to make up some spots late in the going, and brought his Chevrolet home in 22nd, besting his 29th place effort in June. Garrett drops two positions in points, and currently resides in the 18th spot heading into the road course portion of the schedule.
Ryan Repko, driver of the No. 01 The McLain Group Chevrolet, looked to earn his first Top 20 finish after finishing a solid 22nd in June, but he unfortunately was plagued with a series of issues throughout the weekend. He started shotgun on the field in 38th due to not being able to get a lap in qualifying because the car would not fire, and early in the race, radio communications were lost, forcing him to pit under green. To add insult to injury, Repko’s helmet hose came undone, and as the crew went to fix it, they were unable to raise the window net for several laps, costing the Denver, NC driver plenty of valuable time. Stage 1 had Ryan scored in 34th, with Stage 2 not being much better in 30th. At the end of the day, the nineteen year old brought his Camaro home with a 25th place finish, leaving him to wonder what could have happened had he not have had to fight through numerous issues.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will turn left AND right this weekend for the first time of the season at Watkins Glen International for the running of the Zippo 200. Be sure to tune into NBCSN on Saturday at 5:00 PM ET to watch Ross Chastain, Garrett Smithley, Stephen Leicht, and BJ McLeod take the twists and turns of one of the United States’ oldest road courses in upstate New York. For all things JDM, follow along on our social media pages @JDMotorsports01. #TeamJDM
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