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NASCAR Cup at Iowa: What to watch for in Sunday night’s race on USA Network

NEWTON, Iowa — Tonight’s inaugural Cup race at Iowa Speedway comes with a variety of questions for drivers and teams.

A sold-out crowd will be on hand to witness the event, which will air on USA Network (pre-race coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET)

Here is a look at three things to watch in tonight’s race:

How will the tires perform?

Five Cup teams had tire issues in Friday’s 50-minute practice. All had issues around 20 laps on a set of tires. Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric, Tyler Reddick and Ty Gibbs each had a right front tire go down in practice. Ross Chastain had a left rear go down in practice.

“What is even more concerning and makes it way more confusing is the fact that we had three cars out here at a tire test that did 50-lap runs and none of us blew a tire,” Bell said after Friday’s practice. “So, I don’t know. But yes, It is very, very alarming and there are red flags all over the place that we had so many tire issues today.”

Martin Truex Jr. said he is excited about his future but doesn’t know what that will entail.

Bell did the tire confirmation test May 28 with Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski.

There was a feeling by some in the garage that some of the tire issues Friday could have been related to lower air pressures.

A key will be how teams react and how the track changes as the race progresses into the night and cooler temperatures.

Who will be the inaugural winner?

Kyle Larson will start on the pole, but he says he thinks many drivers enter this race believing they can win.

“I think there’s still so much unknown, so I think that’s exciting for race fans and all that … even drivers,” Larson said. “There’s probably more drivers in the field that feel like they have an opportunity to have a good run because if this (track surface) was old, worn out, bumpy – your Hendrick Motorsports teams, your Joe Gibbs Racing teams, they’re going to be the ones dominating.

“Where now, I feel like – especially with qualifying shaking-up the order and all that, I think the starting lineup is a little bit odd. So yeah, I think more teams probably feel like they have an opportunity.

Joey Logano enters this weekend at Iowa outside the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with 10 races left in the regular season.

One driver to watch could be Joey Logano, who starts 11th and has won three of the last eight races at newer events for the series.

Logano won the 2021 Bristol Dirt race, the 2022 Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the inaugural Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in 2022.

Logano’s most recent win came in last month’s All-Star Race on a repaved North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Playoff bubble

Bubba Wallace enters the race holding the final playoff spot.

Two former champions are close behind. Kyle Busch is eight points behind Wallace. Logano is 16 points behind Wallace. Chase Briscoe is 27 points behind Wallace.

Wallace starts 16th. Busch starts seventh. Logano starts 11th. Briscoe starts sixth.

Nine races will remain in the regular season after Sunday night’s race.