Supercars great Jamie Whincup is one win from a century of career race victories after a dominant display on Saturday in Townsville.
The Red Bull Racing driver led from wire-to-wire in the 200km race at the Reid Park street circuit to charge to his 99th career win and extend his lead in this year’s championship standings.
Whincup’s second victory of the season is his eighth overall in Townsville – a tally which more than doubles any other driver at the north Queensland venue.
After claiming his first pole position of the season earlier in the afternoon, Whincup charged to an unassailable six-second lead with just five laps to go in the 70-lap race.
But former Bathurst winner Nick Percat’s steering failure forced a late safety car which compressed the field and obliterated the margin Whincup had built up.
Using the buffer of two lapped cars between him and his rivals at the restart, Whincup pulled clear again in the last two laps to win by 3.5 seconds from teammate Shane Van Gisbergen.
The six-time Supercars champion said he had expected late drama.
“That’s an entertainment safety car, that one,” Whincup said.
“Although the car probably was in the wrong spot. That was fairly legit, but even though, it would’ve been called anyway.
“We have been working hard. The car was fantastic. It’s an important weekend for us.”
Only one man has reached a century of race wins in Supercars history – Whincup’s other stablemate Craig Lowndes.
While Whincup holds an 83-point lead over Van Gisbergen in the championship standings, Lowndes has dropped from second to fourth on the ladder after coming 12th in Saturday’s race.
Ford’s Mark Winterbottom is third on the standings after his third-placed finish, just one point behind Van Gisbergen.
There was drama at the back of the field before the race even started with a sponsor switching teams after a reported falling out.
Plus Fitness owner John Fuller pulled the plug on a deal to sponsor the Erebus Motorsport entry of Aaren Russell, walking to the garage of Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport and agreeing to back the Commodore of Percat which raced with Plus Fitness stickers on it.
The Townsville 400 ends on Sunday with a second 200km race.