Mark Winterbottom has edged closer towards his first V8 Supercars title with a fifth-placed finish in the opening race of the season-ending Sydney 500, but it’s not all over for Craig Lowndes.
The Ford superstar started the 37-lap sprint from pole position and took a conservative approach in a bid to protect his lead over Holden rival Lowndes.
The pair were separated by 179 points heading into the weekend, but the gap grew to 204 points after Lowndes finished 15th.
A maximum of 225 points is up for grabs across the round’s last two races.
Veteran Lowndes started last on the grid after sending his Commodore into the wall during qualifying and, typically, fought his way through the field.
He needed a result of better than 15th to keep his title hopes alive if Winterbottom won.
But the man affectionately known as ‘Frosty’ wasn’t fussed about a race victory, with his eyes firmly on the big prize.
He relinquished the lead to Holden’s Shane van Gisbergen on lap two and, after the compulsory pitstops, also let through the Commodores of Jason Bright, James Courtney and Tim Blanchard.
Lowndes’ teammate Jamie Whincup won the race – his seventh of the season, although the six-time champion is out of title contention.
He finished ahead of van Gisbergen, Bright and Courtney.
It was the first time that the Sydney 500 had not been interrupted by a safety car.
It was also the first time in the event’s history that the entire field has finished a race.
Saturday’s second and final race starts at 4.50pm (AEDT), with Whincup starting on pole position.
RACE ONE TOP FIVE FINISHERS:
1. Jamie Whincup (Holden)
2. Shane van Gisbergen (Holden)
3. Jason Bright (Holden)
4. James Courtney (Holden)
5. Mark Winterbottom (Ford)