MONTREAL — At long last, road-course ace Boris Said is a winner in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Said won Sunday’s NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve when — with the two strongest cars out of contention — the always unpredictable event ended with Said beating Max Papis in a drag race to the finish line.
After leader Robby Gordon ran out of gas on a green-white-checkered-flag finish that sent the race three laps past its scheduled distance of 74 laps, Said lost the lead to Papis at the entrance to the final two corners. But Papis’ momentum sent him wide in Turn 14, and Said drew alongside at the top of the final straightaway.
Papis lost a fraction of a second when he hit the rev limiter in second gear but still had enough to race side by side with Said all the way to the finish line.
Said’s 0.012-second 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.
The victory was more than just a first for Said, 47. It 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.
"I’m shocked … overwhelmed. I thought I was going to cry, but I didn’t. My wife would have made fun of me. But I was pretty happy."
Local hero Jacques Villeneuve finished third, followed by Brad Keselowski, who extended his series lead to 365 points over hard-luck 20th-place finisher Carl Edwards. Paul Menard ran fifth, with Joey Logano, J.R. Fitzpatrick, Parker Kligerman, Justin Allgaier and Trevor Bayne completing the top 10.
The race that gave polesitter Marcos Ambrose another heartbreak (he retired with an electrical problem after leading 25 laps) turned on a bad break — literally — for defending winner Edwards, who led a race-high 29 laps before breaking the track bar on his No. 60 Ford as caution flew with eight laps left in regulation.
Edwards held a lead of almost three seconds over Gordon when Michael Annett slid into the Turn 4 wall to cause the fifth caution of the race, ending a green-flag run of 42 laps.
Two more late cautions forced overtime and prolonged the race enough to empty Gordon’s fuel tank. Gordon led the field to the green flag for a restart on Lap 76 but coasted to a stop before completing the circuit. He finished 14th.
But it was the drag race to the finish between Said and Papis that had the more than 70,000 fans on their feet.
"I was ahead, I was behind, I was ahead," said Papis, who was driving Kevin Harvick’s No. 33 Chevrolet. "At the end of the day, this was an amazing race. I had a blast. It came down to a green-white-checker, and the thing I’m the most proud of … this is maybe the first time I’ve had the chance to really sit in a car that legitimately can win, and it came down to the last corner.
"For me, I’m really proud. I know it’s a second-place finish, but it’s equal to one of my best wins."