American AJ Allmendinger capped one of the strangest weeks of his young career with a crushing victory in Sunday's G.I. Joe's Grand Prix of Portland at the Portland International Raceway.

The 24-year old American led the 105-lap blast around the 1.964-mile Portland road course virtually every step of the way, only conceding the point during the three rounds of green flag pit stops during the first caution-free Champ Car World Series race in many, many months.

After out dragging a slow starting Bruno Junqueira on the opening run down to the infamous Festival Curves Allmendinger proceeded to pull out a handy eight second lead over his nearest pursuers prior to the first round of stops. Although Gerald Forsythe's newest charge lost several valuable seconds behind the lapped car of British rookie Katherine Legge between laps 43 and 45, he still held a three second lead over his former RuSPORT teammate Justin Wilson into the second round of stops.

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Wilson, who started directly behind Allmendinger in fourth place and, like his former teammate benefited from polesitter Junqueira's tardy getaway, slotted into second place at the start but was then surprised by fellow Englishman Dan Clarke who zipped into a career best second on the second lap.

This year's perennial runner-up moved back into second on lap 24 when Clarke suffered a front puncture and while he was finally able to get the gap to Allmendinger down to just over one second on the second pit cycle, a lap 70 lock-up resulted in him flat spotting his tyres. This negated any advantage he had over Allmendinger, who was on the harder black walled Bridgestone's compared to Wilson's softer red walled tyres at the time and after losing several seconds to the leader he elected to take his final pitstop slightly earlier than planned with some 25 laps remaining.

However on the final set of tyres Wilson was still no match for Allmendinger, who went into the final 15 laps with a seven second lead over his former teammate, who now had a rapidly advancing Sebastien Bourdais to deal with.

Bourdais suffered one of the worst starts of his entire career as he dropped from third to seventh in the early laps and spent the first fuel stint trapped behind Allmendinger's replacement in the RuSPORT squad, former series champ and defending Portland winner Cristiano da Matta.

Bourdais' ability to stretch his fuel mileage further than everyone else allowed him to take the lead briefly every time Allmendinger stopped and that, plus the combination of quick driving when most necessary and faultless pit work from his Newman-Haas team, allowed the current championship leader to bypass da Matta, his teammate Junqueira, a struggling Paul Tracy and a plucky Clarke.

Slotting into third place at the conclusion of the second pit cycle Bourdais still found himself half a minute adrift of Allmendinger, which triggered a sensational series of laps as the raced moved into its final quarter. Such was the Frenchman's pace at this point that he was able to carve 15 seconds out of Wilson and move onto the Englishman's tail in the final five laps and even though the possibility of a fifth straight victory was gone, Bourdais still kept the pressure on right until the end of a race in which he was never happy with the handling of his car.

Allmendinger was understandably cautious in the closing laps, perhaps reflecting on a nine day period that saw him sacked from the team he has driven for since he graduated out of karting, hired by the team that his karting mentor Paul Tracy drives for, propose (successfully) to his new fianc? ?nd then finally achieve something that he threatened to do but was never able to complete for his former employers at RuSPORT. When the chequered flag flew the gap between he and Wilson was down to a shade over five seconds but everyone knew that it could have been a lot more.

Yet another second place for Wilson will surely have left him with mixed feelings although the fact that he outscored Bourdais for the first time this year will have given him some comfort.

With five of 15 events now in the history books Bourdais, who was half a second behind Wilson at the flag, now has a still considerable 30 point lead in the championship but more importantly looked mortal for the first time this year.

Fourth place represented a seasonal best for Junqueira, although the fact that he was nearly 40 seconds behind Allmendinger at the end tells its own story. Da Matta finished fifth, three seconds behind his Brazilian countryman for his best finish of the year while top rookie Clarke cheekily past a disgruntled Tracy on the final tour to take a career best sixth place.

Disgusted with the handling of his Forsythe Racing Lola all day, Tracy finished just ahead of Clarke's CTE Racing-HVM teammate Nelson Philippe, who was the last unlapped runner in eighth place while Andrew Ranger and Oriol Servia completed the top ten.

Incredibly all 18 starters were running at the finish although Team Australia rookie Will Power was more than a dozen laps down after some minor mechanical issues.

British rookie Katherine Legge toiled towards the rear of the field in her PKV Racing Lola, occasionally looking like breaking into the top ten but never managing it and eventually finishing 13th.

Allmendinger's maiden series win moves him up to third in the standings, 30 points behind Wilson and 60 behind Bourdais while another solid run from Ranger keeps him in the top four. Behind the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing driver there is a four-way tie for fifth place between Tracy, Mario Dominguez, Philippe and da Matta.