Boris Said, the Brillo-headed road racing specialist, has always had a flair for the dramatic. And he proved that with a stunning last-lap pass of Max Papis to win the NAPA Auto Parts 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Montreal’s fabled Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Papis passed Said on the last lap and led through the 14th and final turn on the 2.71-mile road course. But as they accelerated out of the corners and onto the frontstretch, Said was able to edge ahead, with his Zaxby’s-sponsored No. 09 Ford crossing the line just .012-seconds ahead of Papis’ No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet. The margin of victory was the closest ever on a road course in the Nationwide Series, the fifth closest overall in series history and the closest since 1998 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Jacques Villeneuve, son of the late Gilles Villeneuve and local Montreal hero, finished third in his No. 32 Braun Racing Toyota. Completing the top five were series points leader Brad Keselowski in a Penske Dodge and Paul Menard’s Roush Fenway Ford.
“It’s unbelievable,” Said noted. “I’ve been trying so long and this race is so tough.”
The victory was the first in 22 NNS starts for Said, who had a previous best of second in Mexico City in 2006.
It also was the first Nationwide win for car owner Robby Benton and the first for the new pairing of Said and crew chief Scott Zipadelli.
“I don’t think we had the fastest car today,” Said admitted, “but we definitely had the smartest race strategy with Scott Zipadelli as the crew chief — the first time I ever worked with him. We had great communication, he called a great race, and it was really about managing the race track, managing your brakes.”
Said and Papis, two road racers who have struggled to gain a toe-hold in NASCAR, staged an epic last-lap duel, racing hard and clean for the victory.
“It was just awesome,” Said enthused. “It was good racing, really clean racing. Max is a great guy.”
Papis, although denied victory, scored his career-best NNS finish. “I gave everything I had,” said Papis. “ ... This is what I can do in a good car and I’m really proud.”
For the fourth year in a row, Marcos Ambrose had the fastest car and for the fourth year in a row couldn’t seal the deal at Montreal, this time being let down by a series of mechanical gremlins on his JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota.
There were plenty of cautions during the race, including one for a seven-car crash in Turn 2 on lap 70 of the 75-lap race. Robby Gordon, who had taken the lead from Carl Edwards on Lap 66, appeared to be in position to win.
Gordon led Said, Papis and Villeneuve to the green with three laps to go. But after the restart, Jason Leffler lost an engine and oiled down the track, sending the race first to a yellow flag and then to a red.
That set up a green-white-checkered finish.
Said jumped into the lead ahead of Gordon, who ran out of gas, elevating Papis into second ahead of Villeneuve.
On the final lap, Said pulled away, but Papis caught and passed him, setting up the dramatic conclusion and Said’s first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory.
“I’m shocked … overwhelmed,” noted Said. “I thought I was going to cry, but I didn’t. My wife would have made fun of me. But I was pretty happy.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.