Edwards snatches Montreal victory
|By Diego Mejia||Monday, August 31st 2009, 04:30 GMT|
Carl Edwards snatched victory from Marcos Ambrose at the last corner of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
The Roush Fenway driver claimed his third win of the season in dramatic fashion after pulling off a last lap pass on Ambrose, who dominated for most of the afternoon in what was a chaotic race as many drivers struggled with the changing track conditions.
After qualifying in the rain on Saturday - a first for a NASCAR sanctioned event - the race unfolded mainly on a dry track, until the rain arrived with 17 laps to go, forcing officials to wave the red flag in order to give teams the time to fit rain tyres and wipers to their cars.
By then the final pitstops had already been completed and strategy calls were out of the equation for the win. There were different sequences from the top contenders, but the battle for victory looked set to be a contest between Ambrose, Edwards, local Andrew Ranger and points leader Kyle Busch.
When the green flag waved after the rain-forced stoppage, Busch moved up from fourth to second as Edwards and Ranger went wide into Turn 2 while battling for second place. By the end of the lap however, the caution flag had come out again for an incident involving Steven Wallace and three other cars out of the hairpin.
The race resumed after a couple of laps but there was chaos in the middle of the pack with several incidents unfolding at different parts of the track. Ambrose stayed ahead and built a nice gap to Busch only to see it disappear again when the caution was shown for the tenth time. By then the track was almost completely dry, but the race looked set to be completed without a further tyre change.
With only four laps to go the race resumed once again, but the demolition derby carried on behind the leaders, with Wallace losing control of his car after being pushed onto the grass before Turn 1. He spun and collected at least four others, while Jason Leffler's Toyota could not carry on with a mechanical failure, forcing the final caution period of the day.
On the green-white-chequered finish Ambrose led Ranger, who came under attack from Edwards on the inside of Turn 2. Ranger squeezed the Roush Fenway driver, the pair touched and behind them a chain reaction was ignited when Paul Menard spun Kyle Busch around.
However the real action unfolded ahead with Edwards making a late charge for victory, putting Ambrose under massive pressure. The former Nationwide Series champion closed the gap to the leader, helped by a mistake on the Australian's part at the hairpin.
As the pair approached the final chicane, Ambrose tried to protect the inside while Edwards drove his normal line into the corner. Amazingly the former V8 Supercar champion slid towards the kerb of the second apex, hitting it hard at the wrong angle, getting unsettled and hurting his exit.
Edwards grabbed his chance with both hands and powered out of the corner on the inside of Ambrose, passing him for the lead to take a spectacular victory that pleased an amazing crowd despite their local heroes being left out of the battle for victory in the end.
"Marcos Ambrose helped me a lot here this weekend, so man, that makes it a special deal to pass him. I feel like he's the world's best road course racer right now, so that's pretty cool. It means a lot to me," said Edwards.
"I thought that battle was over. Once we came off of the last hairpin corner, I gave it all I could down in that corner. He had a little bit of trouble with wheelspin off and I had a little run but man, nobody can out-brake him. He just applied the brakes a little early, hit the kerb too hard and I just couldn't believe it."
Ambrose was left in disbelief after losing a race that have looked to be his for most of the afternoon. He led 60 of the race's 76 laps, but just missed on a sweep of the season's road course events after winning earlier this month at Watkins Glen.
"Congratulations to Carl for winning the race. He crashes the sports car on me on Saturday and then he goes and steals the win from me," said Ambrose jokingly referring to the Grand Am race where they were set to team up before Edwards wrecked the car on a damp track in the warm up.
"I'm starting to think I don't like him. Congratulations to him. He put me on a crutch there at the end and I made a mistake."
NASCAR Canadian series leader Ranger impressed with third place, ahead of Jacques Villeneuve, who made the most of the chaos on the final restart to snatch fourth place in the end, his best ever NASCAR finish. He led the race twice in the first half by virtue of running a different pit sequence, and succeeded at keeping his nose clean when others failed to.
Behind him Brad Keselowski picked up the pieces from the fights ahead to cross the finish line fifth with a battered Chevrolet.
Kyle Busch was once again furious while climbing out of his car after finishing 10th, losing ground in the championship battle to both Edwards and Keselowski. The gap is now 192 points between the top two contenders, while Keselowski is 90 behind Edwards.
Pos Driver Car Laps 1. Carl Edwards Ford 76 2. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 76 3. Andrew Ranger Toyota 76 4. Jacques Villeneuve Toyota 76 5. Brad Keselowski Chevrolet 76 6. Tony Raines Chevrolet 76 7. Jean-Francois Dumoulin Chevrolet 76 8. Stephen Leicht Chevrolet 76 9. Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet 76 10. Kyle Busch Toyota 76 11. Michael McDowell Dodge 76 12. Erik Darnell Ford 76 13. Antonio Perez Dodge 76 14. Victor Gonzalez Jr Ford 76 15. Paul Menard Ford 76 16. Steve Wallace Chevrolet 76 17. Kenny Wallace Chevrolet 76 18. Michael Annett Toyota 76 19. Mike Wallace Chevrolet 76 20. Max Papis Chevrolet 76 21. Brett Rowe Chevrolet 76 22. Eric McClure Ford 76 23. Jason Keller Ford 76 24. Stanton Barrett Chevrolet 76 25. Boris Said Ford 76 26. Alex Tagliani Dodge 76 27. JR Fitzpatrick Chevrolet 75 28. Brad Coleman Toyota 72 29. Jason Leffler Toyota 70 30. Justin Marks Toyota 70 31. Jeffrey Earnhardt Chevrolet 67 32. DJ Kennington Ford 57 33. Mark Green Chevrolet 39 34. Mike Bliss Chevrolet 30 35. Ron Fellows Chevrolet 26 36. Justin Allgaier Dodge 25 37. Andy Lally Chevrolet 17 38. Patrick Carpentier Toyota 15 39. Tony Ave Chevrolet 14 40. Colin Braun Ford 2 41. Chris Cook Chevrolet 1 42. Brian Keselowski Dodge 1 43. Tom Hubert Chevrolet 0