NEWTON, Iowa — Eighteen-year-old Kentuckian Ben Rhodes finished seventh in his Xfinity Series debut for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team.
"I was a little stressed out when the weekend began just wanting to do everything I could," Rhodes told The Courier-Journal of Louisville. "In racing there are a lot of things you can't control. ... But I really enjoyed my first start."
Rhodes, who received his high school diploma during driver introductions, missed his graduation from Louisville Holy Cross on Friday to be at Iowa Speedway for preparations for Sunday's race.
A year ago, Rhodes stamped himself as a NASCAR up-and-comer by winning five times and claiming the season championship in the K&N Pro Series East.
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Rhodes, driving a part-time Xfinity schedule that will include the race at Kentucky Speedway on Sept. 26, qualified 14th for his debut in Earnhardt's No. 88 car.
Chris Buescher pulled away on a restart in a green-white-checkered finish to win the race. It was his first victory of the season to give Roush-Fenway Racing its fifth Iowa win.
Chase Elliott appeared poised for an easy win before a late caution set up overtime. Buescher was the beneficiary, and he took advantage with a perfectly executed restart.
Elliott finished second after leading a race-high 114 laps. Erik Jones was third, followed by Brian Scott and Ryan Blaney.
As the first Xfinity event of the year that didn't share a track with a Sprint Cup race, Iowa gave series regulars a chance to run without being overshadowed by the sport's more established stars.
With the day to itself, NASCAR's second-tier series put on one of its best shows of the year.
Buescher grabbed an early lead, only to watch Elliott pass him for an advantage he kept for a third of the race.
A strong pit stop gave Buescher the lead back with about 100 laps left.
But Brennan Poole was subsequently black-flagged by NASCAR after it said he intentionally hit JJ Yeley, sending him into the wall.
It appeared to be retaliation by Poole for a two-car crash involving the pair earlier in the race.
"We just got into it. Just part of racing. I hate that it happened between me and JJ, but that's just how it goes sometimes," Poole said.
Elliott eventually caught Buescher and was running so far in front that only a caution could stop him.
Unfortunately for Elliott, that's what happed.
With just four laps left in regulation, Jamie Dick — whose windshield was destroyed when a weight from Ross Chastain's car flew through it Saturday during practice — hit the wall. Chastain ran into Dick's car to draw the caution that set Buescher up for the win.