As I sat there watching the final laps of the Napa Auto Parts 200, the NASCAR Nationwide Series race from Montreal, it suddenly hit me.
This was one of the greatest races in the recent history of the series.
Just past the midway point of the scheduled 74-lap event, the early dominant car, Marcos Ambrose, was forced to spend extended time on pit road replacing a faulty battery. That handed the dominance over to Carl Edwards.
Twenty laps later, with only a handful of laps remaining, Edwards broke a track bar while under caution. This forced him to the garage to make some repairs. And from then, it was on.
Almost as soon as the race went back to green, the caution came out again. But before it had, there was a near four-wide fight for the lead between Robby Gordon, Max Papis, Brad Keselowski, and Boris Said.
Through all the chaos, the top five when they once again resumed green flag racing included Robby Gordon, Boris Said, Max Papis, Jacques Villeneuve, and Brad Keselowski. If you look at especially the top four, you will see why this turned out to be such a great race.
Missing from that list are the names that typically end up in victory lane in the Nationwide Series. And instead it was filled with four drivers with a combined one win in the series and three drivers who more than anything just want to be called a NASCAR winner.
After one lap of green flag racing, the yellow was displayed, and ultimately the red flag, for the final time. With this caution Gordon's chances of winning had most likely disappeared as it was assumed he would not have enough fuel to make it through a green-white-checkered finish.
After 13 minutes under the red, the cars were re-fired and began to roll once more. This was the shootout that the very passionate Canadian fans had been waiting for.
Almost immediately after taking the green flag, Gordon did indeed run out of fuel, ending his hopes. This made it a three-man battle between new leader Said, Papis, and Villeneuve. All three men on the verge of realizing their NASCAR dream.
After a half lap of holding off Papis, Said seemed to have the win well in hand when Villeneuve caught up to Papis and began challenging him for the runner-up spot. After relinquishing second, Papis used the cross-over move to take it right back, and reset his sights on Said, and the win.
Making their way to the final turn Papis was there. And somehow, without any contact, he got underneath Said to take the lead. But coming out of the turn, Papis drifted a little high, allowing Said to get back underneath him and set up the final drag race to the checkered flag.
As the two men crossed the finish line in a photo finish, the realization set in to the world that regardless of the winner, we had a fresh face in victory lane. Ultimately, by a margin of just .012 seconds, Boris Said had claimed his first career Nationwide Series victory.
In victory lane, you could see how much it meant to Said to be a winner. You could also see in Papis' and Villeneuve's postrace interviews how much it would have meant to them to be a winner.
So when all the dust had settled, we had a first-time winner in the Nationwide Series. In a division dominated by Sprint Cup regulars, it was refreshing to see some new faces running for the checkers. And not only were the top three all going for their first career victories in one of NASCAR's top two premier divisions, they were also in the process of putting on one of the most dramatic finishes.
Congratulations to Said, Papis, and Villeneuve. Although only Said is going home with the trophy, on this day all three of these gentlemen were winners. And so were all of us that had the privilege of watching it.