Brad Keselowski had to overcome a 1,000-mile flight, a pit row violation and an overheating engine just to earn a shot at the lead.
Once Keselowski got his chance, it became perfectly clear who the only Sprint Cup regular in the field was.
Keselowski took control with 35 laps to go to win the NASCAR Nationwide race at Iowa Speedway in Newton on Saturday.
The defending Sprint Cup champion has won his past three Nationwide starts, also topping the field at Richmond in April and Kentucky in June.
Keselowski flew in from Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, where NASCAR’s top series will race Sunday.
Keselowski was then sent to the back after a tire flew outside the box on an early pit stop, and engine issues threatened to derail him about halfway through the race.
Keselowski persevered though, emerging with his second win in four tries on Iowa’s .875-mile oval.
“As a driver, those are probably some of the most difficult moments knowing you have a fast race car and knowing that circumstances are playing against you,” Keselowski said. “You can let the moment define you, or you can define the moment.”
Points leader Austin Dillon led a race-high 116 laps, but gave up a huge lead following a late caution.
Sam Hornish Jr. was second, followed by Brian Vickers, Dillon and Kyle Larson.
Dillon had a dominant car Saturday, taking control a third of the way through the race but a late caution flag changed everything.
Dillon led by as many as 7 seconds — or over a quarter of the track — before a blown tire by Travis Pastrana drew out the flag and allowed the field to pit with 50 laps to go.
Dillon took four tires and fell to fifth. Keselowski, surged to the front and held off a charging Hornish.
Ryan Blaney, 19, pulled away on the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish to win the NASCAR Truck Series race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. He is the son of Dave Blaney, who has 450 starts in NASCAR. … Sprint Car driver Kramer Williamson had surgery after crashing during a qualifying race at Lincoln Speedway in Abbotstown, Pa. … Cole Custer, 15, became the youngest winner in NASCAR K&N Pro Series history with his victory at Iowa Speedway on Friday.