Justin Allgaier might come from a family whose roots are deeply planted in oval track stock-car racing but Saturday afternoon, Lil’ Gator proved he can turn left and right with the best of the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Allgaier captured his first win of the season at the NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, emerging in front after a frenzied overtime finish.
“Today was just an awesome day,” said Allgaier. “Winning in Montreal means so much because all the people in the series enjoy coming here. The atmosphere is great, the fans never disappoint here but the race played out perfectly for us.”
Allgaier was running third at the second attempt for a green-white-checkered finish when a last-lap bump put him in front of Penske Racing teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and Jacques Villeneuve, who ended up second and third.
“I knew I was closing in on Jacques but he braked really early into corner 6 and I was certain he had ran out of gas,” added Allgaier. “He went really slow and I had too much of a head of steam and was sorry I got into him.”
Hornish, who made one last charge at Allgaier on the final lap, seemed far from happy with his second-place finish.
“I should feel pretty content with finishing second but I feel that Penske Racing deserved more from this day, considering the two cars
that they provided us,” said Hornish after the race. “I was running confident, second to Jacques, and felt that we would be battling the
win out between the two of us but the 30 (Alex Tagliani) stuck his nose in there on a restart with about 10 laps to go and I was sent
back to 23rd place or so. I should be happy to finish second after restarting from 23rd but we deserved better. “
The seven extra laps ran because of the two green-white-checkered finish attempts, which forced Villeneuve to eke out the last drops of Sunoco gasoline from his fuel cell. However, though his Dodge Challenger ran out of fuel before getting back to the garage on the cool-down lap, the Quebec-born driver says that he saved enough to get him easily to the checkered flag.
“I did not run out of fuel and my engine did not sputter,” said Villeneuve. “I was simply taken out by Allgaier, who used me to slow
down in Turn 6 on the last lap. It’s frustrating because Penske and Dodge gave me such a good car. We ran head and shoulders above
everyone else even if we were not attacking in order to save fuel and brakes for the end of the race. It’s hard to take.”
Allgaier was apologetic . . . but not too much.
“I am really sorry that I took him out but from what I’ve heard, because I couldn’t see it, earlier in the day, that same car spun out
the 30 car (driven by Tagliani) that just happened to be our teammate,” Allgaier said. “So I guess that what goes around comes around.”
NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader Elliott Sadler finished fourth, one position in front of 2008 Montreal winner Ron Fellows.
Michael McDowell, Mike Wallace, Billy Johnson, Austin Dillon and NASCAR Sprint Cup series regular Kyle Busch completed the top 10.
With 824 points, Sadler extended his lead at the top of the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship race to 22 points over Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who wrecked late but still finished 12th. With his second-place finish, Hornish is now tied with Stenhouse with 802 points while Austin Dillon (789) and Allaier (756) close out the top 5 in points.
Danica Patrick had a good day, leading 20 laps but mechanical issues on her GoDaddy Chevrolet relegated her to the 27th position,
six laps behind the leaders.
“How disappointing is it. We’re bound to catch some good luck some time. I just can’t believe the amount of bad luck we’ve had, ” said
Patrick, who even hit a shoe thrown on the track by a fan at one point.
Derek White, a regular in the NASCAR Canadian Tire series, was the best finishing Quebec driver apart from Villeneuve with an 18th-place effort.
Montreal-born Tagliani, who started from the pole position, led seven laps and ran up front most of the day but was moved over by
Villeneuve for the lead on lap 67. Tagliani finished 22nd.
Patrick Carpentier (29th), Andrew Ranger (32nd), Dexter Stacey (35th) and Louis-Philippe Dumoulin (38th) were the other Canadian drivers entered in the event.
Earlier in the day, Tagliani finished 7th and 8th while running in two different cars in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race won by Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.