Villeneuve sputters as Allgaier takes checkered flag
Justin Allgaier celebrates after winning the NAPA Auto Parts 200 NASCAR Nationwide race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal on Saturday, August 18, 2012. (Tom Boland / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
By Bill Beacon, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Sunday, August 19, 2012 12:24PM EDT
MONTREAL--Justin Allgaier passed local favourite Jacques Villeneuve on the final lap to win the NAPA Auto Parts 200 NASCAR Nationwide race Saturday.
In a race extended from 74 to 81 laps due to frequent caution flags, Allgaier took the checkered flag just ahead of Sam Hornish Jr., with Villeneuve third. Nationwide series leader Elliott Sadler was fourth and veteran Ron Fellows of Toronto fifth.
Villeneuve, from Iberville, Que., looked to have the first race win since he won the Formula One title in 1997 in the bag until the final lap, when he appeared to be running short of fuel and was caught on a turn by Allgaier.
The 41-year-old Villeneuve had nosed Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., off the track on the 67th lap to regain a lead he held on and off all day at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Tagliani, who started from pole position but ceded the lead for a pit stop five laps in, came in 22nd.
Villeneuve has not won on the track named after his late father since 1993, when he won in Formula Atlantic. After that were many memorable crashes during his Formula One career.
A subplot to the race was lingering animosity between Danica Patrick and Villeneuve. The last time they were in the same race at Road America in June, Villeneuve bumped Patrick off the track while she was trying to equal her NASCAR-best fourth place.
But Patrick's bad luck continued. The sport's best-known female driver led the race for more than 20 laps, but developed steering, suspension and gearbox problems and was forced for a long stay in the garage. She returned to the track, but was six laps behind the field.
Villeneuve grabbed the lead from Sam Hornish Jr. on lap 7 and built a six-second gap, but pitted under a yellow flag on the 18th to give the lead to Patrick, with Fellows just behind.
There was another caution right away due to a crash involving Billy Johnson and Austin Dillon, and Villeneuve crept back into third place.
He had no sooner passed for second place to set up a head-to-head duel with Patrick, who had run over a shoe apparently thrown on the track by a fan, when Dexter Stacey of Kahnawake, Que., hit a wall and brought out the pace car again on lap 33. Earlier, Stacey had nearly backed into Villeneuve after a spin-out.
Then Patrick's steering wheel went loose, and Villeneuve squeezed past her on the lap 40. Patrick told her pit crew "something's almost ready to break," but they left the decision to her and she managed to stay out until she ran over a curb, causing another caution at lap 45. After repairs, she rejoined in 30th spot, tried to battle back, but then lost her gearbox.
It was a rough day for Patrick Carpentier of Joliette, Que., who came out of retirement for the race. He retired nine laps in after a pit stop with brake trouble that wasn't able to be repaired.