Justin Wilson had done just about everything during the first half of the 2006 Champ Car World Series season except win a race. But on Sunday in Edmonton he put a change to that.
The RuSPORT driver had won poles, led laps, finished on the podium and kept himself in the thick of the title hunt all year, despite the fact that all of the race wins had gone to Sebastien Bourdais and A.J. Allmendinger. But on a sunny day in front of 63,000 fans, Wilson took care of that little oversight, running down Bourdais to take the lead, and then running away from him and the rest of the field in the waning laps to win the West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix.
Wilson took the lead from Bourdais with 21 laps to run, then answered the challenge posed by both Bourdais and Allmendinger on a late-race restart to score his first win of the year. Wilson saved his best for last, running away from the second and third cars despite the fact that both Bourdais and Allmendinger had 30 more seconds of Cosworth Power-To-Pass at their disposal. Despite not having the extra power, Wilson sprinted away from the field on the lap 73 restart, setting the fastest lap of the race around the 1.973-mile JAGflo Speedway course on the 82nd of 85 laps to claim the win.
Bourdais would content himself with protecting his series points lead, which he did with a second-place finish. The Newman/Haas driver finished 5.319 seconds behind Wilson but leaves Edmonton with the same 23-point lead he brought into the weekend, although the closest pursuer moniker changed from Allmendinger to Wilson. Allmendinger fought off flu-like symptoms at the start of the day to finish third, earning his fourth consecutive podium finish.
Polesitter Bourdais was the man to beat early on, leading 51 of the first 53 laps. He gave the lead up to Wilson during the first round of pit stops, but reclaimed it soon after, cycling through the first set of pit stops with a seven-second lead. Paul Tracy held onto second through the first stint with Wilson in third, but the RuSPORT team short-filled Wilson on his first pit stop, allowing him to rejoin the battle in the second spot, one ahead of Tracy.
At the time, the move seemed innocent enough as Bourdais held onto a commanding lead, but Wilson's move into second freed him from the battle with Tracy and allowed him to set his sights on the leader. The move to gain Wilson some track position paid of in spades soon after as he began whittling time off of Bourdais' lead. Soon what had been a seven-second advantage was shaved to three. Four laps later the lead was down to one second as Bourdais led the pair into a group of cars battling hard to stay on the lead lap.
Wilson waited for four laps to make his move, then jumped on the Power-To-Pass on the backstraight and beat Bourdais into turn nine, wresting the lead away from the points leader on lap 54. Wilson began to pull away immediately as his car carried a lighter fuel load, but could not pull far enough away to keep from giving the lead back with he pitted on lap 61.
Bourdais reassumed the lead with Wilson's pit stop but that was far from the end of the fight. Leading as he approached his final pit stop, Bourdais ran into contact with Alex Tagliani in turn seven. The two touched briefly, sending Tagliani into the tyre barrier while Bourdais continued on to pit lane. The incident ended up causing a yellow flag, which came out after Bourdais, Tracy and Allmendinger made their final pit stops.
Wilson was equal to the task on the first restart, holding the lead ahead of Tracy and Allmendinger. Tracy made a strong pass of Oriol Servia in turn one on the restart to take fourth away from the PKV Racing driver, but the pace slowed again soon after as Nelson Philippe made contact with the wall in turn seven.