Boris Said wins NASCAR Nationwide race at Montreal

By JOHN KEKIS

AP Sports Writer

MONTREAL (AP) — Boris Said has made a living helping NASCAR drivers master road courses with the expertise he's accumulated racing around the world. With his 48th birthday looming in three weeks, he finally helped himself.

Said came back from an early spin and won the Nationwide race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Sunday, edging Max Papis by a nose on a green-white-checkered finish to win the crash-filled event.

"I can't believe it!" Said shouted over the radio of his 09 Ford to team owner Robby Benton. "I'm going to keep trying until I win a Cup race."

Last year, Carl Edwards passed Marcos Ambrose on the final turn to win here, and it seemed like a repeat when Papis dove past Said entering the final chicane. The lead last only for a split second, though. Said never lost momentum and sped back by as Papis sailed wide, and he outraced him to the line.

The margin of victory was .012 seconds, fifth-lowest all-time and closest since 1998 at Homestead.

"I thought I went pretty deep," Said said. "I wanted to be careful, I didn't want to overshoot it. When he went that deep, if he makes it he deserves it."

Papis, driving Kevin Harvick's No. 33, didn't and Said had his first career Nationwide victory in 22 races over the past decade and his second in NASCAR. He also won a truck race at Sonoma in 1998, his only triumph in 127 previous starts across NASCAR's top three series.

French Canadian star Jacques Villeneuve started on the front row and was third in his No. 32 Toyota, followed by series points leader Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard.

"You need the fastest car at the end of hte race," said Villeneuve, who elicited roars from the animated crowd when he briefly got past Papis with one lap to go. "We just didn't lead the race long enough. We were just behind some road race experts the last three laps. It was one thing to get by him (Papis), but it was tough. I didn't make it stick."

Robby Gordon had the lead when the race restarted for the final time, but he ran out of fuel and finished 14th.

Ambrose, the pole-sitter, and Edwards had combined to win the previous five road races in the series and it appeared they would challenge each other for the win on Sunday. They combined to lead more than 50 laps, but both dropped out with mechanical problems.

On a restart with six laps left, Gordon led Papis to the green and the two tangled in the second turn, a sweeping right-hander. Papis was forced into the grass on the inside and Gordon drove through, too, but maintained the lead after both recovered.

Seconds later, Villeneuve hit Jason Leffler as four cars collided to bring out another stoppage, setting up a three-lap shootout.

But the race was interrupted one last time when Trevor Bayne, JR Fitzpatrick, and Keselowski collided to bring out the seventh and final caution. NASCAR stopped the race for 13 minutes while the track was cleaned to set up a green-white-checkered finish for the second straight year and put the pit crews on edge as they all contemplated fuel.

Crew chief Miles Stanley said Gordon could go the distance, but he pitted on lap 48 of a race that went 77, and the final caution created some doubt.

"This is a little bit of overtime," Stanley said. "We weren't counting on that caution. We'll see what we've got."

"It's going to be exciting," Villeneuve's crew chief Trent Owens said. "I hope we can close this thing out. We need one real bad. It doesn't matter if we finish third, fourth, or fifth. We want to win."

With only 11 cars on the lead lap, it provided the cars in doubt a chance to stop for a splash of fuel. There were no takers and Gordon was warned to keep pace before the green flag waved. He ran out right after the restart, giving Said the lead as Papis fought off a challenge from Villeneuve to make his final charge.

"If the race doesn't have a caution at the end, we win," Gordon said. "We made our bed this morning."

Gordon returned for the race for the first time in three years to make amends for the inaugural and controversial 2007 Nationwide race here when he crossed the finish line first but was denied the victory because he had ignored a black flag. He was a disappointing 16th in qualifying on Saturday because of a brake problem and had to start at the rear off the field because his crew fixed it when the cars were impounded.

That put Gordon on a fuel strategy plan, and it appeared to be the right call when Ambrose retired with electrical problems with just over 20 laps to go and Edwards suffered a broken track bar with less than 10 laps remaining around the 14-turn, 2.71-mile layout. Edwards finished 20th, falling 365 points behind Keselowski with 10 races remaining in the season.

At the drivers' meeting, Ambrose picked to start on the right heading into the first curve, a hard lefthander leading into the sweeping right. He made the strategy work over and over, outracing Villeneuve at the start and after the first three cautions.

Those cautions flew in the first 13 laps, the third involving six cars, including Gordon's right rear.

Villeneuve spun Said on the 34th lap heading into the 10th turn, a hairpin right, but Said recovered quickly to stay on pace.

The last two Nationwide events here were plagued by rain. Sunday's race was run under sunny skies with temperatures in the 80s.

Boris Said wins NASCAR Nationwide race at Montreal 08/30/10 [Last modified: Monday, August 30, 2010 2:31am]

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