The fight for fifth: Johnson v Winterbottom
The fight for the V8 Supercar Championship Series might be all-but over, but there are some very interesting battles that will be played out over this weekend’s final round in Sydney.
The fight for fifth place is the tightest in the top 10. Steve Johnson (Jim Beam Racing) leads Mark Winterbottom (Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon) by 30 points. Johnson has enjoyed a typically consistent year, including two podium finishes. Winterbottom has won a race, although was let down by a dreadful start to the year.
Who will finish on top? Johnson says that his goal for this weekend’s inaugural Sydney Telstra 500 is to stay in the top five.
“Unfortunately, there has been a couple of little incidents late in the year that have made it closer than what we would have liked,” he told Speedcafe.
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“We dropped back to sixth after Surfers Paradise, then at Phillip Island we were running third before a flat tyre cost me. We should be another 100 points better off, but that’s not the case.
“We have a 30 odd point buffer to Winterbottom now and it’s going to be an interesting weekend for us.”
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For Winterbottom, fifth place in the title wouldn’t mean anything as much as taking victory at his ‘home’ race. The factory Ford driver grew up in the nearby Doonside town, and he badly wants to be the first person to have his name on the Sydney trophy.
“Since this race was announced it’s been the one I want to win,” he said.
“It’s been 18 years of hard racing to get here and to win Homebush would really cap it off. It has a lot of meaning for me.”
While Johnson and Winterbottom will be keeping score, don’t write off Rick Kelly (Jack Daniel’s Commodore). Kelly sits in seventh place, just 99 points adrift of Johnson. If anything untoward happens to ‘Stevie J’ or ‘Frosty,’ ‘Ricko’ will be in there like a flash.
One of the other interesting battles in the championship is for 20th place. Who cares about 20th, you ask? Jason Bright (Fujitsu Falcon) and Greg Murphy (Sprint Gas Commodore) are separated by 29 points, and this battle is significant because these drivers are regarded as two of the best (and most popular) in the category. It’s interesting to note that both Bright and Murphy will move to new teams next year, no doubt hoping for a better end-of-season result …