Triple Eight has admitted it didn’t try to race the all conquering Shell V-Power Racing Fords in Race 14 although the squad is far from giving up on closing the gap to the pace-setters.
The Red Bull Holden outfit was comfortably beaten on pace by the Mustangs of Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard, who went on to score a sixth one-two of the season on Sunday.
Prior to a late Safety Car, McLaughlin had built a 21 second advantage over third placed Whincup, who led the Holden charge, such was the Kiwi’s and his Ford team’s dominance.
Whincup, who is yet to score a win this season, would hold off Penrite Racing’s David Reynolds to claim the final spot on the podium.
Triple Eight team manager Mark Dutton revealed that the team took the decision not to race the Shell Fords and focus on what was achievable with its drivers.
Whincup converted his third place grid berth into a final spot on the podium while Shane van Gisbergen charged from 13th to seventh.
“There is (still an opportunity to close the gap to DJR Team Penske),” Dutton told Speedcafe.com.
“We weren’t focusing on that, not because we’re blind and putting our head in the sand, but because we were focusing on what was achievable this weekend within and against our competitors.
“We thought if they were a step above then we weren’t going to try and race them so we didn’t try and race them.
“That’s not being defeatist; the difference with obviously motorsport to a lot of other sports is that there are not two teams, so it’s not just win or lose. There’s obviously varying positions, so we saw our primary competition this weekend as Erebus, and Reynolds in particular.
“We focused on 88 (Whincup) to beat them and get ahead of them, which we succeeded in, and the focus on 97 (van Gisbergen) was to just move through the pack as best we can, so we achieved that in the race, so very happy.”
Although focussed on beating Erebus Motorsport, Dutton reiterated that the team won’t give up on trying to overcome DJR Team Penske this season.
“We will keep chipping away, that’s all we have to do,” he added.
“I think we’ve made some ground this weekend; we were happier with the car, particularly #88, in both qualifying and racing. #97 still had very good race pace; we were just not nailing qualifying in that car.
“But that’s part of development and pushing and trying to close a decent gap to a quality team.
“You never do (give up).
“Even if it gets to a point, and if it continues in this path then at some stage it’ll get mathematical that you can’t win, then you’re here to just keep winning races, developing the car, because then it’s more looking towards finishing strongly and having good knowledge for the following year.
“We’re not at that point yet, so there is never a point you give up.”
Van Gisbergen holds third in the championship, albeit 415 points shy of McLaughlin while Whincup is fifth at 478 points adrift.
The squad will now regroup before heading to the BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown from June 14-16.