MONTREAL -- Marcos Ambrose should have won the race. Robby Gordon insists he did.
In the end, it was Kevin Harvick who celebrated the victory in
Saturday's inaugural Busch Series race in Canada.
It was a controversial finish that thrilled the crowd,
infuriated NASCAR and probably jeopardized Gordon's participation
in Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Pocono Raceway.
Gordon refused to forfeit his position on the track when ordered
to by NASCAR late in Saturday's race, officials said he
intentionally knocked Ambrose out of the race, and then refused to
pull off the track as ordered.
He also celebrated as if he had won the event -- behavior that is
expected to earn him a suspension before Sunday's event at Pocono.
"We are still determining what will happen at Pocono," said
Steve O'Donnell, vice president of NASCAR's racing operations.
"It's too early, it's something we're still discussing."
The finish capped a wild final few laps that heated up when
Gordon began charging through the field to the front, where Ambrose
seemed to be heading to his first NASCAR victory. Gordon was second
on a restart with four laps to go, and a multi-car accident brought
out a caution.
Gordon passed Ambrose at the same time as the accident to take
the lead, but Ambrose spun him to reclaim it seconds later. Gordon
was idling sideways as the field roared by him on the historic
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but he raced back to the front under
yellow and gave Ambrose a retaliatory bump.
He then tried to move into the lead because he thought he was in
first -- or at worst, second -- when the caution came out.
NASCAR instead ruled he was 13th, based on where Gordon was when
he righted his car following the spin from Ambrose. He vehemently
refused to move back into the field, and NASCAR warned him they
would not score him if he didn't forfeit his position.
When the race resumed with three laps to go, Gordon was still
holding second place but immediately spun Ambrose to take the lead.
NASCAR then ordered him off the track.
He refused that order, too, and led the field around the course
for the final three laps.
But NASCAR refused to acknowledge him, and waved the black flag
at him every time he crossed the line. The results show he finished
18th -- based on the amount of laps he completed before he was
disqualified -- but Gordon celebrated as if he won the race by doing
victory burnouts at the same time Harvick did.
"I did the most laps, I was the first car to complete them, I
won the race," Gordon said. "We came here to win the race, and
that's what we did."
NASCAR officials furiously retreated into their office, where
Gordon was summoned after he climbed from his car. He had a copy of
the rule book in his hands when he left moments later.
"You always go back to your position if you get spun out, and
[Ambrose] spun me under the caution," Gordon said. "They told me
originally to go back to second place, and I went back to second
place. Then halfway around the last [caution] lap, they said to go
back to 13th place or 14th place, something like that.
"I was never running 13th or 14th, so I don't know what to
All the drama helped Harvick inherit the win.
Gordon wasn't being scored and Ambrose had faded back to seventh
after being spun by Gordon. It put Andy Pilgrim into the lead, but
Harvick raced his way past him and took Montreal native Patrick Carpentier with him.
Carpentier made an attempt to get past Harvick, but when the
move failed, he faded back and never mounted another challenge as
Harvick rolled to the win.
Max Papis finished third, Canadian Ron Fellows was fourth and
Stephen Leicht rounded out the top five. Ambrose, who should have
won, wound up seventh but didn't complain.
"I knew that he was going to try and hit me, and we were
talking whether we should pull over and let him pass," the
Australian said. "But, you know, I've got two laps to go and I'm
trying to win the race. If somebody is going to take me out,
they're going to take me out. I'm disappointed. I promised myself
that I wouldn't get mad."
The wild ending capped a brilliant weekend for NASCAR and Stock
Car Montreal in their first partnership. A crowd of 68,150 began
packing the grandstands hours before the race, and event organizers
said the walk-up crowd was the best the circuit has ever drawn.
Although the annual Formula One event draws upward of 100,000
fans, organizers were ecstatic with their two-day total of 129,473
because no one was certain how the open-wheel crazed nation would
accept the full-bodied stock cars.
"This has been better than we could have dreamed for," general
manager Martin Spalding said.
NASCAR chairman Brian France agreed, as he and top series
officials spent Saturday mingling and marveling over the reception.
"They have run big events here before, so we expected it to be
an organized, well-done affair," France said. "And it has been."
This is NASCAR's second international trip -- the Busch Series
has raced in Mexico City since 2005 -- as France tries to promote
the brand on foreign soil. It helped tremendously that Carpentier
and Fellows, two fan favorites, were in contention for the win and
the crowd roared with approval every time they passed by.
"I could tell it was [Carpentier] behind me because the
grandstands were waving everything they had at him," Harvick said.
"I knew it wasn't for me."