Lacroix wins 2nd race in Portland
O Canada was on heavy rotation on the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda podium this weekend at Portland International Raceway, as series newcomer Kevin Lacroix (#10 Uni-Select) became the second Canadian driver to earn his first Atlantic win in as many days at the Mazda Grand Prix of Portland presented by Joe’s Sports and Outdoor doubleheader.
Just one day after making his Atlantic debut in the first half of the doubleheader, Lacroix got the jump on his Canadian countryman James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) on a Lap 6 restart in the 35-lap race to take the lead. Hinchcliffe kept the pressure on Lacroix over the remaining laps but never got close enough to make a pass, and Lacroix went on to win by 1.472 seconds. It was the first victory in Atlantic competition for the 18-year-old Lacroix—who previously competed in the Star Mazda and Formula BMW USA series—and comes on his first weekend of racing in eight months. It was also the first Atlantic victory for Brooks Associates Racing since Andreas Wirth won for the team at Denver in 2005, and was the team’s second victory overall.
Hinchcliffe, who started from the pole position as he did for Saturday’s first race of the weekend, picked up his second runner-up result in as many days after leading the first five laps. It was Hinchcliffe’s third consecutive podium result dating to a third-place run in Round 3 at Houston, and the 20-year-old from Toronto has now finished inside the top-seven spots in all five races this season. Hinchcliffe has moved into second in the Atlantic championship standings and gained ground on points leader and Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammate Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks), who finished sixth in the race. On the strength of his two poles, two second-place results and the fastest lap in Sunday’s race from the Portland weekend, Hinchcliffe is now 17 points behind Matos, 140-123, with five of 12 races now completed.
Picking up an Atlantic career-best third-place result was French rookie Franck Perera (#11 CJ Motorsport) for Condor Motorsports. Perera was third for the standing start and actually got past Lacroix at the start to take second before surrendering the spot on Lap 2. Perera previously finished fifth in the first four races of the season and is now the only driver in the series to finish inside the top five in all five races this season. He is fourth in the Atlantic driver standings.
Rookie Robert Wickens (#3 Red Bull/INDECK), who picked up his first career Atlantic victory on Saturday at Portland, capped a successful weekend with a fourth-place run on Sunday. It was Wickens’ fourth top-four result of the season and he has finished inside the top 10 in all five of his starts in the series. As a result, he is now third in the overall Atlantic championship standings, just four points in arrears of Hinchcliffe. He also leads the Rookie of the Year point standings by 10 points, 119-109, over Perera.
Ryan Lewis (#15 NCPI/Deans Knight/Wasteco) capped his best Atlantic weekend to date with a fifth-place run. The Englishman finished a season-best third on Saturday and has now finished inside the top five in all three of his Atlantic starts at Portland International Raceway. Lewis made his Atlantic debut at PIR last year and finished second.
Sunday’s Round 5 of the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda will be televised at 5:30 p.m. ET on Monday, June 18 on ESPN 2. On-demand video is also available on the official series web site at www.champcaratlantic.com.
• Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Konica Minolta/Dynacor) rebounded well from his 24th-place performance in Saturday’s race to finish seventh in Sunday’s second half of the doubleheader at Portland. Bomarito is now fifth in the championship standings with 93 points.
• Dutch racer Junior Strous (#16 Shell/Best Box/HTP/Red, White & Bluezz USA) has now finished inside the top nine in three of his four Atlantic starts this season. Strous finished ninth on Saturday and came home eighth on Sunday. His best result of the season was sixth in the season-opening Vegas Grand Prix.
• Mexican rookie David Garza (#4 Axtel/Tecate/Madisa/USRT) picked up his first top-10 result in Atlantic competition with a 10th-place showing in Sunday’s race. Garza has improved his finishing position in every race this season, with a 25th-place result in Round 1 at Las Vegas, 24th in Round 2 at Long Beach, 14th in Round 3 at Houston, 12th on Saturday in Portland and 10th today.
• Canadian Adrien Herberts (#45 Paladin Motorsports) earned the championship point for improving the most positions from start to finish in Sunday’s race. Herberts went from 23rd at the start to 13th at the checkered flag.
Quotes from the top-three finishers in Sunday’s race follow below:
KEVIN LACROIX (#10 Uni-Select) of Brooks Associates Racing: “First, the weekend started pretty hard because I had a bad time in the practice. I just kept improving myself and kept learning the car and the track. Now, finishing today with a win in my first weekend, I think it’s amazing. I think, with not much experience, it’s very good for me. I had a very good car with Brooks Associates Racing. It was perfect. I did some mistakes, but had some luck and just finished with a first.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises: “Championship-wise, I think it was a great result for us, but it was a bit of a frustrating day. I think we had a bit of a quicker car at the beginning, and obviously, Kevin did a great job to get by me on that first restart. He made a mistake in the first corner and we nearly got together there. I had to back out of it to avoid contact and ultimately got penalized with not getting the position. A little bit later in the race, he made a mistake coming onto the back straight and I managed to get by him, but I guess the yellow flag came out just before I was able to get by. After that, it’s just so tough to follow here in Portland with the long corners. Either way, we had a great car, and for the championship it’s a good result. It’s good to have another Canadian onboard and up here on the podium, but I’ve had two other Canadians have their first win in the last two races. I want my turn up top.”
FRANCK PERERA (#11 CJ Motorsport) of Condor Motorsports: “For sure, this is what I’m expecting. I came here to fight for the championship and to win it. It’s a good result, because we had some bad luck and some mistakes from my side in the first races. It’s a really different championship for me and different cars. On paper, it’s maybe easy, but it’s not really easy. It’s going to be different. We improved the car a lot for the races, especially because I had good qualifying. I qualified second in Long Beach and third in Houston. Only Friday we had some technical problems, so that’s why I started 14th in the race yesterday, but I had quite a good race and finished fifth. It was good because for two years, I haven’t driven in the rain. It was a pretty good race yesterday. Today, I had a really good start and I was second in the first corner, and I tried to catch James (Hinchcliffe), but my speed on the straight was not very good. Kevin (Lacroix) overtook me, and then I tried to stay close to the guys. The team really did a good job. I want to thank Condor (Motorsports), and my sponsor, Everflux, was here. Now, we still have to do much more work to get the win. It’s what I want for the next races.”
POS NO NAME LAPS BEHIND LEADER STATUS
1 10 Kevin Lacroix(R) 35 0.000 Running
2 9 James Hinchcliffe 35 1.472 Running
3 11 Franck Perera(R) 35 4.790 Running
4 3 Robert Wickens(R) 35 11.643 Running
5 15 Ryan Lewis 35 15.009 Running
6 6 Raphael Matos 35 15.908 Running
7 23 Jonathan Bomarito 35 16.988 Running
8 16 Junior Strous(R) 35 24.097 Running
9 36 J.R. Hildebrand(R) 35 25.132 Running
10 4 David Garza(R) 35 25.616 Running
11 24 Carl Skerlong(R) 35 25.982 Running
12 18 Giacomo Ricci(R) 35 28.214 Running
13 12 Ronnie Bremer 35 28.544 Running
14 45 Adrien Herberts(R) 35 37.093 Running
15 44 Matt Lee(R) 35 37.479 Running
16 5 Simona DeSilvestro(R) 35 37.942 Running
17 2 Tom Sutherland(R) 35 38.215 Running
18 26 Justin Sofio 35 39.181 Running
19 32 Mike Forest(R) 35 40.128 Running
20 13 Frankie Muniz(R) 35 43.731 Running
21 19 Brian Thienes(R) 35 44.791 Running
22 21 Bret MacDonald(R) 35 49.869 Running
23 7 John Edwards(R) 30 20.667 Mechanical
24 49 Dan Selznick 28 7LAPS Running
25 37 Richard Heistand(R) 18 12.978 Off Course
26 17 Adrian Carrio(R) 12 1LAP Contact
27 20 Alan Sciuto 7 6LAPS Contact
-Champ Car PR-