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Rookie Wickens wins first of two races in Portland

6/9/2007

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Canadian Robert Wickens broke Raphael
Matos' three-race winning streak and won the first of two Champ Car
Atlantic series races at the Grand Prix of Portland.

Wickens, an 18-year-old rookie, led the final seven laps to beat
pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe by 10.957 seconds. Hinchcliffe, also
from Canada, led 23 laps on the 1.964-mile road course at Portland
International Raceway.

Ryan Lewis of England was third, followed by Brazilian Matos,
who was the first driver in 17 years to open the Atlantic series
with three straight wins.

The 30-lap race, completed in a track record 46 minutes and
5.689 seconds, was run in nearly constant rain.

There was one caution at the start of the race.

"It feels amazing [to win] because I actually bogged down at
the start and dropped to probably seventh. I got back to fifth
before safety car came out," Wickens said. "Then [after restart]
just got them one at a time until I caught up with James."

Wickens opened the season with a second-place finish in Las
Vegas, and a third place at Long Beach. He finished 10th in
Houston.

Wickens said he picked up a tip from watching Champ Car rookie
Graham Rahal during practice, speeding up his exit on turn 12. He
used the strategy to pass during the race.

"To be honest, once I got within a second of James, the spray
was so bad that I couldn't maintain my pace because I couldn't
see," Wickens said. "Luckily, when we caught up to lapped
traffic, I got a really good run coming into the front straightaway
and I was able to get James going into the first corner."

The second race of the weekend's doubleheader will be on Sunday
morning. Hinchcliffe is also the pole sitter for that race,
following a fast lap on one minute, 5.991 seconds (107.142 mph). He
will be joined on the front row by rookie Kevin Lacroix, who is
also Canadian.