Winterbottom on track for V8s title

Craig Lowndes has taken the race win but his V8 Supercars title rival Mark Winterbottom has more to celebrate from Phillip Island.

In a two-way battle for the title, Lowndes did his job by claiming an 11th career win at the coastal circuit on Sunday.

However, Winterbottom’s fourth place represented a resounding mission accomplished, acceptably minimising the loss to his huge championship lead.

The career Ford man arrived at the meet 240 points clear of Lowndes and departs 179 points ahead.

It could yet be more, with a final-lap lunge by Jamie Whincup for third place set to be scrutinised by stewards.

Winterbottom’s lead means he is assured of a maiden title in the sport just by finishing each race at next month’s season-ending Sydney 500.

Wedged between the title rivals was Scott McLaughlin in second.

The Volvo emerged marginally ahead of Lowndes’ car No.888 from the pit lane in a battle of fuel strategies.

Lowndes surged past the Kiwi moments later, powering on to claim his second win of the weekend.

The race victory saved Lowndes’ blushes after a sluggish start when he lost position from the grid.

The 200km race was almost completely without incident, a perfect scenario for Winterbottom.

The 34-year-old desperately craved a clean weekend to preserve his champion-in-waiting status.

His biggest stress came during the last four laps on Sunday, when Whincup caught up to his Prodrive Falcon and harassed him home.

Whincup divebombed Winterbottom with just a few corners remaining, with officials set to ponder a reversal of their finishing positions.

Jason Bright was handed a drive-through penalty for bumping into Scott Pye on his release from the pit lane.

It didn’t slow the DJR Team Penske man, who charted the race’s quickest lap shortly after.

Sunday’s 200km race also ended the faint title hopes of David Reynolds, whose 10th-placed finish puts him further adrift than the maximum 300 points on offer at the Sydney 500.

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