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Special celebration: Iowa’s Victory Lane hosts Blaney family reunion after Ryan’s win

NEWTON, Iowa — When NASCAR announced last October that Iowa Speedway would host its first Cup race, Linda Beatty received a message from a nephew about getting the family together that weekend.

While many families gather at NASCAR races, this one was a bit more invested in the event.

Beatty’s husband, Dave, is the brother to Lisa Blaney — the mother of Cup driver Ryan Blaney.

Sunday night, the family reunion moved from the Turn 4 grandstands to Victory Lane after Ryan Blaney won his first race of the season.

The connection to this part of the country is with Lisa Blaney. She is from Chariton, Iowa, a town of less than 5,000 people about an hour south of Des Moines. Ryan Blaney recalls often spending the Christmas holiday there with family.

“I just enjoyed the area as a kid,” he said. “It’s a fun area. It’s different. It’s grandma’s house. Get to see your cousins. My mom has a big family.”

Many remain in this area. When Beatty sent a message to various family members asking “Who’s in?” for that weekend, the response was immense.

Eighty-five people said they wanted to go to Iowa Speedway to see family and watch Ryan race.

The family purchased four campsites outside Turn 1. They had three campers. The fourth campsite was the party zone.

Ryan Blaney’s sisters created gray T-shirts for all of them to wear that read “Ryan Blaney Iowa Crew.”

Blaney dominant in Cup Series' first trip to Iowa
Marty Snider, Dale Jarrett, and Brad Daugherty go through the field and recap all of the action from the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway.

The night couldn’t have gone any better. Blaney led a career-high 201 of 350 laps, including the final 88. But it wasn’t that easy for either Blaney or his family.

Crew chief Jonathan Hassler put Blaney in the lead by calling for a two-tire pit stop on the final stop of the night. Tires had been an issue all weekend as Cup teams sought to find the balance between speed and reliability on the partially repaved track. Those that didn’t find the right combination faced the consequences.

Four drivers had right front tires fail in Friday’s practice. Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric both hit the wall and had to go to a backup car. Sunday’s race saw 10 tire issues among eight drivers.

When the final caution waved at Lap 261 for Chris Buescher’s incident after a right front tire went down, Josh Berry led. Berry’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, told Berry on the radio that someone was likely to take two tires but he felt four tires would win the race.

Blaney took off on the restart — while Berry was mired in traffic — and pulled away. It still wasn’t easy for him or those in the stands pulling for him.

Just two weeks ago, Blaney was headed for a victory at World Wide Technology Raceway when he ran out of fuel coming to the white flag.

Blaney couldn’t help but think of that moment when back in the lead in the closing laps.

“Normally in my mind it’s get to the white (flag),” Blaney said. “Now it’s like, I don’t care about getting to the white, let’s just get to the checkered.”

Family members felt the same way.

“You could feel the intensity kind of building, but it was pretty quiet until about six or seven (laps) to go,” Dave Beatty said of the family and friends in the stands. “Then a few people kind of started standing and we’re like ‘Hold on, you know, we’ve been through this before just two weeks ago.’”

“Oh my gosh, we were so stressed,” Linda Beatty said. “I usually leave before the end of the race because I get so nervous. I didn’t realize we were down to three laps until everyone around me started screaming.”

Here’s what drivers had to say about their race Sunday night.

Meanwhile, Ryan Blaney was trying to maintain his lead on William Byron with only two fresh tires while most of the field, including Byron, had gotten four tires on the last stop.

“Honestly I was starting to struggle a little bit with 10 to go,” Blaney said. “I had to push harder to keep my pace. It was really working hard to keep the pace, keep the gap to Byron.”

By that time, Dave Blaney had walked down from the stands to be near the fence to watch his son head toward victory on Father’s Day.

After Blaney did his winner’s interview on the frontstretch, his dad climbed under the fence to hug him. Blaney celebrated with his mom through the fence.

After Blaney drove to Victory Lane, many members of his family came down the stands and crossed the track to witness the moment and create a special memory.

After the photos for sponsors were taken, many of Blaney’s family walked on to the stage with the trophy and waited for Blaney to finish his interviews. When he did, he joined them in a photo.

“I’ve been through that before, but a lot of them have never been to Victory Lane and get to experience that,” he told NBC Sports. “A lot of young cousins, young kids that are just in awe of it.

“I’ve always kind of taken that approach that even though it’s not my first time, it might be a lot of people’s first time doing this, being at a race or Victory Lane or something. When it’s family it makes it even better.

“It was cool to get a photo with the family there. We’ll be enjoying that one for a long time.”