On Sunday, Carl Edwards ran up front for most of the race, running in the top 10 and generally staying out of trouble. However, he didn’t really have anything for Marcos Ambrose, who dominated the day.
The last few laps changed that significantly.
When the rains came on lap 58, necessitating a brief red flag so that teams could change to rain tires and install rain equipment (wiper blades, rain lights, etc.), the complete tone of the race changed from slightly frantic to “insane.”
With that, the contact increased. Edwards, who was in the top five during this time, was jostled around on restarts, even getting pushed into the grass and nearly spinning out in the Virage Senna (turns 1 and 2) on the final restart. However, Edwards recovered from the near spin and continued on.
On the last lap, Edwards strongly pressured Ambrose, who had been in control for almost the entire race. Coming to the last chicane, Ambrose took a very defensive line on the inside. This put him off line for turn 14, the second part of the chicane. Ambrose bounced off the curb and went offline, allowing Edwards to skitter by and win the drag race to the line to win the NAPA Auto Parts 200 Presented by Dodge.
After the race, Edwards was surprised, but also happy with his victory.
“I just gave it everything I had on that last lap,” Edwards said after the race ended. “I thought the whole time Marcos was going to get away with this thing, and [then] Marcos just made that one mistake through the curves at the end and gave me the chance to get by.”
Ambrose, who led a race-high 60 laps on Sunday, had to settle for a very disappointing second.
“I feel pretty devastated, because I let my boys down,” Ambrose said. “We came here to win, and anything less than that was a disappointment.”
For Ambrose, dominating in the Nationwide Series at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has been very easy. He has led the most laps in all three Nationwide races at the 2.709 mile road course. However, something has happened in all three of the events to prevent Ambrose from hitting pay dirt. In the inaugural race in 2007, Ambrose spun out Robby Gordon under caution accidently. Robby claimed that he had the lead when the caution was thrown, but NASCAR disagreed, telling Robby to drop back to 18th for the green-white-checkered restart. Robby refused, and then took out Ambrose at the Virage Senna on the restart, to absolutely no one’s surprise. Ambrose brought his Kingsford Charcoal-sponsored No. 59 home seventh.
Last year, Ambrose once again had the car to beat, both in the dry and the wet. However, Ambrose misjudged his speed while slowing to enter pit road for his final pit stop. He locked up all four tires on the wet pavement and slid over the timing stripe in an attempt in vain to avoid a speeding penalty, but it was not to be. However, since he had such a substantial lead, he was still able to do his drive-through penalty and exit the pits in third, where he eventually finished when the race was called after 48 laps of the scheduled 74.
Following Edwards and Ambrose was Canadian Tire Series points leader Andrew Ranger, driving the No. 11 Ridemakerz Toyota for CJM Racing in third. Crowd favorite son Jacques Villeneuve in the No. 32 for Braun Racing was fourth and Brad Keselowski, after no less than two spinouts, rounded out the top five.
Tony Raines finished a surprising sixth for Front Row Motorsports. In seventh, despite smoking heavily at the finish due to contact with Alex Tagliani on the final restart was Jean-Francois Dumoulin in the No. 23 Mahindra Tractors Chevrolet for R3 Motorsports, the best ever finish for the team. Stephen Leicht finished eighth, followed by Brendan Gaughan. Kyle Busch, who was in contention for the win until he was spun out on the final restart, finished 10th.
Edwards’s victory closes the margin between himself and Kyle Busch to 192 points with 10 races to go. Keselowski remains in third, 90 behind Edwards. Jason Leffler, who finished 29th, remains fourth, followed by Steve Wallace (despite his multiple wrecks) in fifth. Justin Allgaier falls one place to sixth after crashing out, followed by Jason Keller. Gaughan is up one place to eighth in points, followed by Mike Bliss in ninth. Michael McDowell, who finished 11th in an oval-track car for K-Automotive, maintains the 10th spot.
This year’s race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, lengthened to 76 laps due to a GWC, will go down in history as the longest Nationwide race ever run. Thanks to the rain and a road-course record 11 cautions, the race took three hours, 49 minutes and 19 seconds to run. This barely eclipses the three hours and 48 minutes set at Gateway International Raceway in the inaugural Gateway 300 in July 1997. In that race, the track started breaking up because of the cars and extreme heat.
Also, this weekend’s events will be remembered for all the rain. The only time in which the Nationwide teams ever actually ventured onto the track on slick tires was during the race (and only for the first 61 laps), as the only practice session was run on rain tires. Qualifying, likely against NASCAR’s preference, was conducted in the rain on Saturday afternoon after the Grand-Am race, resulting in a greatly jumbled grid. It was the first ever official qualifying session for a NASCAR points race held in the rain (qualifying for the NASCAR Special Suzuka Thunder 125 in November, 1997 was held in the rain at Suzuka Circuit’s East Course, but that was an exhibition race).
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