Jamie Whincup has kept himself clear of a Sandown shake-up to claim pole position for Sunday’s 500km Supercars classic.
Together with co-driver Paul Dumbrell, the sport’s statesman found clear air on Saturday afternoon to claim a third-straight Sandown 500 pole.
Garth Tander in car No.2 will join him on the front row, with Volvo pair Scott McLaughlin and James Moffat earning places on the second row with determined drives across the three-stage qualifying process.
Further back, it wasn’t so simple.
Craig Lowndes and the Ford quartet of Mark Winterbottom, Chaz Mostert, Cam Waters and Scott Pye were the biggest losers on a tumultuous day’s racing.
Winterbottom and Lowndes watched on as their title bids were shaken during the co-driver qualifying race.
On the first turn of their first lap, Winterbottom’s partner Dean Canto made contact with Lowndes’ co-driver Steve Richards, turning car No.888 around.
Canto had burst from 11th on the grid into the top six but earned a drive-through penalty for his effort, which also claimed Tony D’Alberto’s DJR Team Penske Falcon.
D’Alberto’s co-driver Pye struck out at Canto for his “stupid” approach.
“He’d already made up a few places. I mean how many do you want before the first corner?” he said.
Lowndes recovered to qualify 12th, with Pye and Winterbottom due to start 21st and 22nd respectively.
The Falcons suffered further blows, with Mostert blowing his front-row position to finish fifth after a slow start.
Waters was shunted off the track by Moffat and will start last, completing what team boss Tim Edwards summarised as “a shocking hour”.
There was drama, too, for Shane van Gisbergen, who bashed Fabian Coulthard out of the way before redressing his error.
“I just mucked up … I’m sure he will complain on Twitter,” van Gisbergen said.
Coulthard – who was on track for a top-six finish before further tangles with Will Davison – finished 12th and stormed out without speaking to media.
At the front, Whincup couldn’t contain his delight at pinching a pole that could allow him to extend his championship lead.
“We were very happy with today. The car’s been excellent all weekend,” he said.
“The boys either side of me (Tander and McLaughlin) are very quick so it’s going to be a lot of fun in the 500k race tomorrow.”
Tander said he missed the drama behind him after his best qualifying effort of the season.
“It looks like there was plenty going on. Up the front, Jamie, Scotty and I were pretty boring,” he laughed.
SANDOWN 500 QUALIFYING RESULTS:
1. Jamie Whincup (Holden)
2. Garth Tander (Holden)
3. Scott McLaughlin (Volvo)
4. James Moffat (Volvo)
5. Chaz Mostert (Ford)