Rookie Wickens wins first of two races in Portland

Updated: June 9, 2007, 9:46 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press