Hinchcliffe snatches victory in Portland

A common tune sung in school buses nationwide is "100 bottles of beer on the wall". In the rather elongated song, they all fall and only one is left standing. The song was an apt way of describing today's Champ Car Atlantic series event in ...

A common tune sung in school buses nationwide is "100 bottles of beer on the wall". In the rather elongated song, they all fall and only one is left standing. The song was an apt way of describing today's Champ Car Atlantic series event in Portland, where the lead was not the place to be and at the end, winner James Hinchcliffe led only the final lap. It was quite a wild race in the Rose City.

The fireworks started at the notorious Festival Curve complex. Pole sitter Graham Rahal and front row starter Simon Pagenaud collided somewhat controversially. The Frenchman spun Rahal around and caused him terminal suspension damage. Pagenaud trundled around the rest of the day in a feeble attempt to collect points but would later retire with mechanical issues.

"I just went into one and got through cleanly," Rahal commented. "On the left (hander), I got drilled by someone. I felt something was broken - and I was absolutely sideways. That was basically it. It was a good hit, and I don't know what he was thinking." An inconvenient truth for Rahal is that amassed only the points from pole position in this one and dropped back in the standings.

Series debutante Ryan Lewis made a daring lunge around the outside of turn one, setting up well for the inside of turn two and emerged from the fracas behind him in the lead. Rahal's teammate had started 4th and would prove to be the dominant force.

On lap 12 Leonardo Maia and James Davison made contact. While Maia continued unharmed Davison's car jerked left and went straight into the barriers. From the TV feed it appeared he made no attempt of stopping. Not surprisingly, Davison saw it differently. "All of a sudden I just bounced off someone," he said. "I don't know where he came from, but I just got bolted out of the way."

Off the restart Lewis was jumped by Raphael Matos. But by lap 23 Matos' car had developed a push and began a dropping effect through the field. First Lewis passed him, then Joe D'Agostino, Hinchcliffe, and series points leader Andreas Wirth. Matos finished 6th at day's end.

Then the leaders began having problems. D'Agostino, who had closed to within 8-tenths of the lead, retired with mechanical problems five laps from the finish. It appeared Lewis had clinched the victory in his first start, but fate would intervene. He dropped a couple of gears and a bit of smoke came out of his car.

Hinchcliffe passed Lewis on the exit of the Festival Curves and would complete the final lap unscathed to take the victory. Lewis still made it to the flag, albeit a disappointed 2nd after leading 30 of the 40 laps. Wirth came 3rd after qualifying a disappointing 12th, with Alan Scuito and Danilo Dirani completing the top five.

"There were a lot of cars that dropped off and slowed down," Hinchcliffe said. "There was a lot of luck but we stayed strong. My heart goes out to Lewis, since he had (gearbox) problems. My visor got pretty fogged up, and I couldn't see a thing! But 1st and 3rd for our team was phenomenal."

Lewis was not exactly distraught with the result, but not pleased either. "I thought it was sewn up, but we had the mechanical gremlins on the penultimate lap," he said. "I lost 3rd and 4th gear. It was a bit of a shame, but I think there were some positives out of this race."

Wirth leads the championship standings by 25 points over Hinchcliffe. The next round is a double-header in Cleveland, which will see the return of standing starts for the first time since 1998.

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Graham Rahal , Leonardo Maia , Danilo Dirani , Ryan Lewis , Andreas Wirth , James Davison , Simon Pagenaud , James Hinchcliffe , Joe D'Agostino