By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
The Daytona 500 eluded Dale Earnhardt for the majority of his career. Earnhardt lost that race every which way you can, until finally he was able to capture it in 1998. For Memphis Raines (Nicholas Cage), the main character in the film Gone In Sixty Seconds, his unicorn was “Eleanor” a 1967 Shelby GT500 Mustang. Every time Raines was in position to “boost” that elusive car, something bad would happen to him.
It seems anyone who is good at anything always has that one that continually gets away, even in fiction stories. This in the end makes it all so much more sweet when they finally triumph.
Marcos Ambrose’s “Eleanor” is Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada. It came back to haunt him again Sunday.
In the inaugural event at Montreal in 2007, Ambrose led 37 of the 75 laps on the day, but he was discarded after a Robby Gordon road-rage incident at the end of the race. He would hang on to finish seventh, but the thought of what could have been must have been on his mind.
Ambrose came back in ’08, and from the third starting position he led 27 of the first 48 laps. Then the rain came, and it fell hard. The race was called after 48 laps, and because of pit strategy Ambrose found himself a disappointing third.
Then in 2009 Ambrose suffered the most bitter of defeats. He utterly dominated the day leading 60 of the 76 laps, but following a miscue in the final turn of the race Ambrose was passed by Carl Edwards.
Sunday Ambrose found a new, and equally heartbreaking way to lose at the Canadian track.
In a field full of Sprint Cup stars and road course ringers, the Australian got off to a fast start. However with less than 40 laps to go, Ambrose began reporting that he was losing voltage. The power issues would doom him, as he would lose more than one lap on pitroad, while his crew changed the battery in his No. 47 car.
With 23 laps to go Ambrose’s diminishing hopes for victory would completely end, when he had a sway bar break on his car. He will now have to wait until 2011 for another chance at capturing a race that he woulda, coulda, shoulda, had four straight wins in.
It appeared now that with a huge lead, it was Carl Edwards’ race to lose. However with nine laps to go, the race became one of attrition as the leader had a rear trackbar break. This sent Edwards, who had led the most laps on the day with 29, behind the wall and effectively out of the running for the win.
This set up a great battle for the win between some of the greatest road course ringers in the sport today, including Robby Gordon, Boris Said, Max Papis, and Jacques Villeneueve.
On a restart with seven to go Gordon and Papis duked it out on a restart, and by then end of the first turn the two were in the grass, scrambling to regain their spots on the course. Both would get back on track without losing much ground, but it was a nerve-racking moment.
After several caution flags down the final stretch, including one with two laps to go, we were now forced to go to a green-white-checkered finish. This made many uncertain about how much gas was left in leader Robby Gordon’s fuel tank.
On the restart Boris Said, would get position on Robby Gordon for the lead, when all of a sudden Gordon would run out of fuel. Gordon’s shot at redemption from the 2007 race was over, and the race was to be settled between Said, Papis, and Villeneueve… And what a finish it was.
Boris Said just nudged Max Papis by the smallest of margins in an incredible photo finish for the ages. This is Boris Said’s first career victory in NASCAR, and he breaks a long standing curse of the “Zaxby’s Car”.
Max Papis would finish second followed by Jacques Villeneueve, Brad Keselowski, and Paul Menard.
In the end the NAPA Auto Parts 200 will be remembered as a race that tested the human emotions. There were so many ups and downs in the emotional roller coaster, but then in the end you have to be left feeling good for guys like Boris Said, and Max Papis.