For a large part of the NAPA Auto Parts 200 NASCAR
Nationwide Series race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, it appeared that former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve was on his way to victory lane. He led for over half the race and was rarely out of contention for long, even when an ill-timed early caution sent him tumbling out of the top ten for a period.
But as the ending approached, the hitherto orderly race became a frenzy of hot-headed overtaking moves that included Villeneuve apparently deliberately spinning his compatriot Alex Tagliani out of the lead and then set up two attempts at green-white-chequered overtime finish that had everyone stretching their fuel to the limit.
When Villeneuve's car appeared to stutter after the white flag, Justin Allgaier took his chance to bump the #22 out of the way and to drive away with the race win, leaving a seething Villeneuve to signal his unhappiness as he came across the line in third place behind Sam Hornish Jr.
The early stage of the race had been a relatively sedate affair mostly focussed on differing pit stop strategies and everyone having to focus hard on hitting their fuel numbers. That resulted in the sight of a lot of the Nationwide regulars - Elliott Sadler, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. among them - all making very early stops for fuel in the opening minutes. Kyle Busch was another to come in early, having already had to start toward the back of the field after missing qualifying on Friday because of taking part in the Sprint Cup session in Michigan.
Another car in prematurely was that of the polesitter Alex Tagliani, who had suffered some front end damage after running into the back of Sam Hornish Jr. on lap 3 while briefly running in second. Hornish briefly took over the lead spot but it was clear that he didn't have the pace to stay in front of the Penske Racing car driven by Jacques Villeneuve, who took over control of the race on lap 8; Hornish also succumbed to Danica Patrick's overtaking moved three laps later and dropped back to third.
Patrick was the first of the remaining leaders to blink and come onto pit road for her first stop on lap 19, making it look touch-and-go whether she would be able to make it the rest of the way on just one more stop. However, the timing ended up being a major stroke of luck for the #7, as the first caution of the day came out while she was still in the pits because of a spin and stall for Dexter Stacy.
This was bad news for Villeneuve and Hornish: it was still slightly too early for comfort for them to make it all the way on their two-stop strategy, but they had little choice other than to take advantage of the yellow even though it would drop them behind the other cars - like Danica - that had already stopped. Villeneuve was beaten off pit road by Hornish, and resumed the race from 12th place on lap 23.
The fortuitous timing of her own stop put Danica Patrick at the front for the green flag, and he pulled off a picture perfect restart to quickly pull away from Ron Fellows, Justin Allgaier and Cole Whitt who ended up in a three-way battle for the second spot that resulted in Whitt mowing the grass and Allgaier getting bumped into the wall on the other side.
Another caution quickly followed for Timmy Hill stranded off-track, and NASCAR
tried to get proceedings underway again on lap 27 with Patrick repeating her picture-perfect breakaway at the front to drop Fellows and Allgaier. Kyle Busch had now circulated up to fourth place despite starting from the back thanks to his early pit stop, and Andrew Ranger was in fifth just ahead of Villeneuve who was already charging back to the front by making use of every opportunity that the multiple restart attempts had presented.