NEWCASTLE EAST, Australia — Jamie Whincup knew going into Sunday’s season-ending race for the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship that all he could do to try and win the championship was win outright.
By the end of 250 kilometers, not only had he done that, but the chaos that befell points leader Scott McLaughlin was enough that Whincup came out of the Coates Hire Newcastle 500 with his record-extending seventh Supercars title.
Rebounding from a blown tire that saw him limp home 21st and lose his slim points lead to McLaughlin on Saturday, Whincup led teammate Shane van Gisbergen home by 4.4812 seconds in a one-two finish for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team to close out the year.
Meanwhile, McLaughlin suffered three penalties — including a post-race pit lane penalty that amounted to 25 seconds added to his total race time — that relegated his No. 17 Shell V-Power Ford to 18th in the final rundown, allowing Whincup to come from 78 points behind to win the title by 21 markers in the end.
The race win was Whincup’s fourth of the season and the record-extending 108th of his career, but it was arguably the most meaningful of all as it added one more shining tally to the 34-year-old’s legendary resume.
“I’m lost for words. I didn’t have a clue crossing the line,” said Whincup. “I assumed I came in second and the crew goes ‘You’ve got (position) number one!'”
“What a roller coaster day and what a massive event. I’m just glad we were able to put on such a good show. We fought hard. We surely didn’t have the quickest car all year, but it’s all about teamwork and this sport is all mental. Today it all came together for us.”
McLaughlin’s day began to come undone when he came down pit lane for the first time, after leading the opening 13 laps of the 95-lap event from the pole. At that point the young Kiwi was tagged for speeding on entry to the lane, forcing him to come down for a drive-through penalty and dropping him to 22nd at that early juncture.
When the cycle finally concluded for the first time on the 35th round, it was Van Gisbergen leading and Whincup sitting third, while McLaughlin was languishing in 15th and holding on to a tenuous, single-digit lead in the championship.
Slowly but surely, though, McLaughlin began fighting his way back forward. He advanced three spots in seven laps to sit 12th, but it was when he went to pass Simona de Silvestro at turn 11 on lap 46 that a second strike came against the Kiwi.
He got into De Silvestro’s Nissan at turn two and copped a 15 second time penalty for the contact, which he quickly served on his final pit stop as the last round of service began two laps following his incident with De Silvestro.
Just as the cycle was coming to a close, Taz Douglas took a ride into the barriers at turn seven, however, deploying the Safety Car as the caution flag came out for the first time on the afternoon, negating much of McLaughlin’s deficit and setting him up for a chance to rebound.
Continued on the next page…