Mark Winterbottom has put one hand on the V8 Supercars trophy after winning pole position for the opening race of the Sydney 500 while championship rival Craig Lowndes crashed and qualified last.
The Ford superstar’s hot lap of one min 27.7596secs secured him the No.1 spot on the grid for Saturday’s 37-lap race at the Homebush street circuit.
Lowndes, meanwhile, put his Holden into the wall on his final lap – relishing him to 25th.
Just 179 points separate the pair on the drivers’ standings.
Winterbottom needs to finish 14th or better in each of the weekend’s three races to claim the 2015 title – his first since his full-time debut in 2004.
But a victory and poor result for Lowndes could win him the championship before Sunday’s season finale.
“I’m pumped, that’s awesome,” said Winterbottom.
“The car yesterday was not that flash, but it was really good then.
“We’re in the right position to have a go. Game on.”
The man known as `Frosty’ had a troublesome first day of the round, failing to finish inside the top 10 in any of Friday’s three practice sessions.
But he bounced back with a blistering lap in the final warm-up before qualifying to top the timesheets.
Holden’s Shane van Gisbergen qualified second, ahead of fellow Commodore drivers James Courtney, Jason Bright, Jamie Whincup and Tim Slade.
Qualifying for Saturday’s second race begins at midday (AEDT).