NASCAR » 20 August 2011
Nationwide: Now Ambrose conquers Montreal
Buoyed by his success last weekend at Watkins Glen, Marcos Ambrose followed it up in the best way possible with a long-overdue victory at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
With his reputation as one of the best, hardest and fastest road course racers currently plying his trade in NASCAR, it was always a bit of a mystery why Marcos Ambrose hadn't managed to clinch victory before now on the 2.71-mile, 14-turn Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course well known to F1 fans.
He's had four attempts at claiming victory here, and over the years been completely dominant - leading 149 of the 276 laps he had run in Montreal. And yet when it came down to the chequered flag, a combination of mistakes, mechanical woes and plain bad luck had snatched it away from him.
That might explain why he so eagerly signed up for the breakneck travel plans that saw him fly up from Michigan with Carl Edwards and Trevor Bayne to arrive at the track just 20 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the race, meaning that all three had to start from the back of the grid at the green flag. It also meant that none of them had had a chance to run a single lap on the track prior to the start, Owen Kelly having qualified the #009 for Ambrose, Billy Johnson car-sitting the #60 for Edwards and Michel Jourdain Jr. looking after the #16 for Bayne.
The race started with a small piece of history - the first all-Canadian front-row in Nationwide Series history, as Penske team mates for the day Jacques Villeneuve and Alex Tagliani led the way to the green flag. Villeneuve quickly stretched out a decent lead, but the order of the day at the start was early pit stops as cars topped off their gas as early as lap 2 as soon as it was viable to make the remainder of the race distance on only two further pit stops. The weather was also a consideration, with reports of storms in the vicinity.
Villeneuve pitted on lap 8 leaving the lead to series regular Jason Leffler until lap 13 at which point it was former F1 driver Scott Speed who took point until his first pit stop on lap 17. Villeneuve was back on top through to his second stop on lap 32, at which point Robby Gordon took over the lead for four laps until his pit stop restored Villeneuve back on top once more.
The crucial lap of the race as far as the win was concerned was lap 44, when Villeneuve got off-course at turn 1 and then slammed into the right-front of Marcos Ambrose as he got back on line; the two made contact further round the lap with a hint of payback on Ambrose's part as this time Villenueve was sent for a spin that collected Elliott Sadler in the process. The #22 ended up in the pits for repairs for two laps.
"I got caught sleeping," rued Villeneuve. "Instead of leaning on him, I gave him too much room, ended up in the grey and lost control of the car. I should have been more aggressive."
“Jacques and I both dove into turn 1, but he ran out of track, got on the grass and was unable to stop,” Ambrose said. “Unluckily for him, it ended his day, but luckily for us, we were able to keep going. So in the end, it didn't matter."
That left Ron Fellows in the lead with Alex Tagliani overtaking compatriot Patrick Carpentier (in his final professional motor race before retiring from the sport) for third place on lap 46. Tagliani was able to barge his way past Fellows for the lead on lap 56, but he lost the lead to the recovering Marcos Ambrose at the restart on lap 64. That left Tagliani tangling with Michael McDowell for second through turn 1, and after losing that Tagliani then had to fight off Robby Gordon who ended up running into the back of the #12 during the scrap, bringing out the sixth and final caution on lap 67 after Gordon's car started spewing flames and oil over the track.
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