Jacques Villeneuve was in the driver's seat heading to the white flag, more than 20 car lengths ahead and his first victory in NASCAR just a lap away on the track named for his dad.
Then, in the blink of an eye, Justin Allgaier bumped past him for the victory Saturday in a Nationwide race as a stunned crowd at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve recoiled in disbelief.
''It's tough when you have a driver who has his last name on the race track,'' Allgaier said after his second victory of the season and third of his career. ''Obviously, this is a big race for him and a big venue.''
Having maintained the top spot through restart after restart in the final laps of a race that went seven extra circuits around the 14-turn, 2.7-mile layout, Villeneuve was running low on fuel and kept turning off the engine of his No. 22 Dodge to conserve.
What seemed like an insurmountable lead vanished on the last lap. Allgaier closed in a hurry as Villeneuve suddenly slowed and was hit from behind.
''I don't know if he went into protect mode,'' Allgaier said. ''We knew he was going to be close on gas. My first thought was he was out. I had too much steam running my normal pace, and we got together. I'm sure he's not happy about that, but I know that the 30 (polesitter Alex Tagliani) got taken out by that car. I guess at the end of the day what goes around comes around.''
Villeneuve should know. He took out Danica Patrick at Road America on the final lap in June, depriving her of a top-five finish, and bumped Tagliani, a Montreal native, out of the lead late in Saturday's race. Tagliani finished 22nd.
''We got together,'' Villeneuve said. ''He was really slow and just blocking, braking on the inside and the guys behind me were catching me. We tangled a little bit and I thought it would be all right. I didn't get off the gas because I didn't want the cars behind me to catch me, and I ended up turning him around.