Ambrose survives Nationwide race
MONTREAL — Marcos Ambrose survived a collision with Jacques Villeneuve to win the NAPA Auto Parts 200 NASCAR Nationwide race on Saturday.
Ambrose took the lead on a restart with 10 laps to go as he blew past Alex Tagliani and held the top spot through the sixth caution of the incident-filled race to claim victory on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Tagliani finished second and Michael McDowell was third.
Ambrose was coming off his first Sprint Cup victory Monday at Watkins Glen, N.Y. The Australian arrived in Montreal less than 30 minutes before the race from Michigan, where he will compete Sunday in Sprint Cup.
Steve Wallace was fourth and J.R. Fitzpatrick fifth.
Patrick Carpentier was forced out of his last race before retirement when he was bumped late by Wallace.
Villeneuve, the 1997 Formula One champion, started from the pole and had the lead until the restart after the second yellow flag on lap 44 as an apparent braking error sent him across the infield on the first turn and straight into Ambrose’s car. Ambrose then bumped Villeneuve, who never threatened again.
Villeneuve’s Penske teammate Tagliani used the confusion to pass Ron Fellows for the lead, but he made a pit stop on another restart at lap 51 to put Fellows back in the lead until Ambrose took over.
Attendance figures weren’t announced, but with warm, sunny weather and Canadians Villeneuve and Tagliani on the front row of the grid, it appeared to be the biggest crowd since the inaugural Nationwide race here in 2008. Grandstands were packed and thousands lined the sides of the track.
Black clouds blew in late but the rain held off.
There are concerns it may be the final race in Montreal after the Quebec government turned down a request for $500,000 in funding, but organizers are optimistic a deal will be made before NASCAR releases its 2012 schedule later this month.
Drivers Carl Edwards, Ambrose and Trevor Bayne made it to the race about 25 minutes before the start from the Sprint Cup event in Michigan. They arrived on Edward’s jet — a two-hour flight — helicoptered to the track and took a boat along the Olympic rowing basin to the garages.
They started at the back because they missed the drivers meeting.