Whincup’s Supercars title hunt blown apart

Jamie Whincup’s quest for an unprecedented seventh Supercars title has taken a major blow with steering damage ruining his first race at Newcastle.

Starting from fifth on the grid on Saturday and 30 championship points ahead of polesitter Scott McLaughlin, Whincup’s Commodore made contract with Michael Caruso’s Nissan Altima.

The damage from the collision forced him into the Red Bull Racing garage. McLaughlin was in fourth place at the time, behind two drivers who were yet to visit pit lane.

“It’s far from ideal sitting in the pits. We’re going to dump a heap of points today and it’s going to be tough from here,” Whincup said.

“I just thought we could go too wide with car 23 but he shut the gate, broke the steering and that’s the end of us.”

Shortly after Whincup’s incident, a three-car pile up involving Dale Wood, Kane Douglas and Jason Bright brought the safety car onto the track.

But the halt in proceedings wasn’t long enough to save Whincup. He later re-joined the fray more than 13 laps off the pace.

Holden’s Tim Slade leads the race from Whincup’s Triple Eight Racing teammates Craig Lowndes and Shane van Gisbergen with 68 laps remaining.

McLaughlin is in the box seat to claim his first title, with the potential to take a commanding lead if he can win Saturday’s 250km race.

Earlier, the Ford gun scorched the new street circuit in one minute and 9.9065 seconds in another display of superior qualifying speed to set up his 15th pole this season.

The final race of the season will be on Sunday, another 95-lap affair.

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