Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes have won the Sandown 500 after heartbreak for their team-mates Shane van Gisbergen and Garth Tander, while Scott McLaughlin clinched a second Supercars Championship title.
Van Gisbergen and Tander were on for an incredible win from second-last on the grid when a suspension failure with 12 laps to go saw the former have to pit from a lead which had exceeded 12 seconds just prior to the drama.
As such, Whincup inherited first position and ultimately the win in the other Red Bull Holden Racing Team entry, while Tickford Racing got a double podium with Chaz Mostert/James Moffat (#55 Supercheap Auto Mustang) second and Lee Holdsworth/Thomas Randle (#5 The Bottle-O Mustang) third.
Scott McLaughlin and Alexandre Premat (#17 Shell V-Power Mustang) were a relatively lowly ninth after starting from the very back and incurring a time penalty during the race, but that was enough for the Kiwi to take the championship given he needed to only finish to do so.
Lowndes was on Armor All Pole Position in the #888 ZB Commodore and took the lead through Turn 1, with Bryce Fullwood (#7 Plus Fitness Altima) tucking in behind having started from the outside of the front row.
Luke Youlden (#9 Penrite ZB Commodore) slotted into third and Jake Kostecki (#56 Boost Mobile KBR ZB Commodore) jumped to fourth from eighth on the grid as Alex Davison (#23 Milwaukee Mustang) and Will Brown (#99 Penrite ZB Commodore) both stalled.
Youlden dropped to 10th when he ended up off the road after a dive from Jake Kostecki caused contact at Dandenong Road on Lap 3, an incident for which officials opted to take no further action.
Randle put a move on Jake Kostecki at Turn 1 to take over third position on Lap 5, while Lowndes led by about one second after 10 laps in the books.
Scott Pye (#2 Mobil 1 ZB Commodore) was the only primary driver to start and found himself embroiled with a battle for Youlden over ninth position, which was eventually resolved in his favour on Lap 16.
Just up the road, Pye’s team-mate Jack Perkins (#22 Mobil 1 ZB Commodore) kicked off the pit stops when he filed into the lane from fifth position, which promoted Tander into the top 10 after he had charged from 24th in van Gisbergen’s #97 ZB Commodore.
Fullwood began to drift from Lowndes such that the margin was above four seconds on Lap 19, before the man who wrapped up the Super2 Series earlier in the day pitted at the end of Lap 22.
As word came through that Fullwood had incurred a 15-second penalty for speeding in pit lane during that stop, Lowndes and Randle pitted from the top two positions on Lap 24.
That put Jake Kostecki officially in the lead, Pye second, and Tander third, the latter having passed Michael Caruso (#6 Monster Energy Mustang) as Lowndes peeled off.
With Pye and Jake Kostecki pitting on consecutive laps, Tander found himself at the head of the field as he started his 28th lap, and he remained there until a Safety Car was called on Lap 32 for a big crash on the back straight.
Dale Wood had moved left as he got a run on Richard Muscat (#34 Boost Mobile ZB Commodore), but Youlden already had his nose there, which turned the #15 Castrol Altima hard into the fence.
Muscat barely escaped being caught in the incident but Youlden also incurred big damage to the #9 ZB Commodore.
Officials would later decide to take no further action, but the Safety Car did induce all those who had not yet taken a first pit stop to do so.
At that point, Lowndes was back in the lead from the early stopping Perkins, Fullwood, Randle, Moffat, and Tander, the latter of whom had in fact been somewhat short-filled.
Sixth through ninth was Caruso, Jake Kostecki, and Warren Luff, who had hopped into Car #2.
Of the DJR Team Penske entries, Tony D’Alberto (#12 Mustang) was 10th despite being turned around after a tangle with Muscat on Lap 5, and Premat 16th in McLaughlin’s #17 Mustang.
However, the latter car would soon be given a 15-second penalty for being dropped with its fuel hose still coupled during their pit stop under the Safety Car.
When the race restarted on Lap 36, Tander got by Moffat as they reached Turn 1.
Randle got by Fullwood at the start of Lap 42 and Tander also passed Car #7 into the Esses on the same lap, before they quickly caught Perkins.
It was Tander, however, who put a move on Randle on the run to Turn 11 on Lap 44, and pulled off a carbon copy on Perkins next time around.
When Randle got a run on Car #22 on Lap 46, however, a touch at that same corner saw the rookie run through the infield and he dropped to sixth.
D’Alberto was the ultimate beneficiary as the moment allowed him to overtake Perkins down the main straight and take up third spot.
Tander was almost six seconds behind Lowndes when he had taken second spot, before gaining four seconds by the time Lowndes handed over Car #888 to Whincup at the end of Lap 54, the minimum driving distance.
Perkins, Randle, Fullwood, and Jake Kostecki, who filled fourth through seventh at the time, followed Lowndes into the lane, while D’Alberto’s shift came to an end on Lap 57.
For the next 50 laps or thereabouts, the battle for the effective lead was waged between the two Triple Eight Race Engineering entries on the stopwatch.
Tander was almost 42 seconds ahead of Whincup, who had by then risen back to second, when he pitted at the end of Lap 72 to hand Car #97 over to van Gisbergen, who resumed in third position.
Van Gisbergen got past Luff, who was running deeper into the race because Pye had started, for second spot on Lap 79, at which point Car #888 led by a bit over 23 seconds.
Fabian Coulthard, in Car #12, easily got by a tyre-weary Luff at the start of Lap 81 to take up third position.
At that point, with most having completed two pit stops and needing to make another two, Whincup led van Gisbergen, Coulthard, Luff, Holdsworth, James Courtney in #22, Mostert, and Brown, with McLaughlin last car on the lead lap in 16th.
Holdsworth pitted at the end of Lap 81 and Luff three laps later, while Coulthard took service on Lap 85.
Whincup was 11 seconds ahead of van Gisbergen when he made his penultimate pit stop on Lap 94 and Mostert followed him into the lane from a nominal third position.
They rejoined in fourth and 11th respectively, before Pye made a bold move on team-mate Courtney for an effective fifth off Dandenong Road on Lap 96.
McLaughlin made his penultimate pit stop on Lap 97, while van Gisbergen’s came on Lap 106.
The 2016 champion rejoined in second position and was still almost 10 seconds behind Whincup once he had completed his out lap, with Holdsworth third, Coulthard close behind in fourth, and Pye fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 with a third of the race to go were Courtney, Mostert, Anton De Pasquale in #99, Andre Heimgartner in #7, and James Golding (#34 Boost Mobile ZB Commodore), with McLaughlin 14th.
Mostert was on a relative charge having just passed De Pasquale, before picking off the Walkinshaw Andretti United cars on Lap 110 and then Lap 117.
Courtney pitted from seventh at the end of Lap 120, the critical lap, with most of the other final pit stops coming in the next 14 laps.
Van Gisbergen had in fact caught Whincup on Lap 134 and when the leader made a small mistake at Dandenong Road, he appeared to let his team-mate past as he was on his way into the lane anyway.
Whincup resumed in second position, with Holdsworth third, Mostert fourth, and Coulthard fifth, ahead of Pye, Courtney, Will Davison in #23, Heimgartner, De Pasquale, and McLaughlin.
Mostert got a better run off Dandenong Road to put a move on Holdsworth on Lap 136, while van Gisbergen pitted on Lap 137.
Such was his advantage, the Kiwi was still over seven seconds ahead of Whincup at the end of his out lap, and he continued to pull away.
That was until disaster struck on Lap 150 of 161, with the problem reported to be a bolt falling out of the right-rear corner of #97 which caused the shock absorber to jam on the bottom suspension arm.
Any thoughts of persevering were quickly resolved in the negative and van Gisbergen had to pit for repairs.
He was sent back onto the track having dropped two laps and ultimately finished 17th when he and Tander had deserved far better.
Whincup took the chequered flag just over 20 seconds ahead of Mostert, who had over three seconds on Holdsworth.
“Obviously commiserations to 97, they did a great job today,” said Whincup.
“At the same time, we’ve been on the receiving end of that one many of times so we’ll certainly take it.
“Big thanks to CL, he’s done an amazing job all season of endurance, great to be in victory lane.”
Lowndes added, “Well it is (bittersweet) in some way.
“I think we had a great car all weekend, Jamie and I had a really cracking day yesterday.
“Got it going to a reasonable start today, but shame for the 97, they come from the back of the grid to the front and it’s sort of happy and sad at the same time.”
Coulthard/D’Alberto took fourth, from Pye/Luff, W.Davison/A.Davison, Courtney/J.Perkins, Heimgartner/Fullwood, McLaughlin/Premat, and De Pasquale/Brown.
The latter duo’s result was a fightback of sorts after they were forced into a suboptimal strategy when Brown had a tyre delaminate just a handful of laps before he was due to have completed his minimum driving time.
The top 10 finished on the lead lap while the Kosteckis got home one lap down in 16th, and Cameron Waters 16 laps down in 21st after co-driver Caruso’s run-in with Jake Kostecki.
This year’s championship comes to a close with the Coates Hire Newcastle 500 on November 22-24.
Results: Race 30, Penrite Oil Sandown 500
|1||888||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||J.Whincup/C.Lowndes||Holden Commodore ZB||161||3:13:09.9977|
|2||55||Supercheap Auto Racing||C.Mostert/J.Moffat||Ford Mustang GT||161||3:13:30.6287|
|3||5||The Bottle-O Racing Team||L.Holdsworth/T.Randle||Ford Mustang GT||161||3:13:34.2529|
|4||12||Shell V-Power Racing Team||F.Coulthard/T.D’Alberto||Ford Mustang GT||161||3:13:38.9334|
|5||2||Mobil 1 Racing||S.Pye/W.Luff||Holden Commodore ZB||161||3:13:50.0894|
|6||23||Milwaukee Racing||W.Davison/A.Davison||Ford Mustang GT||161||3:13:51.3388|
|7||22||Mobil 1 Racing||J.Courtney/J.Perkins||Holden Commodore ZB||161||3:13:52.7334|
|8||7||Plus Fitness Racing||A.Heimgartner/B.Fullwood||Nissan Altima||161||3:13:55.1391|
|9||17||Shell V-Power Racing Team||S.McLaughlin/A.Premat||Ford Mustang GT||161||3:13:56.8941|
|10||99||Penrite Racing||A.De Pasquale/W.Brown||Holden Commodore ZB||161||3:14:02.9095|
|11||8||Fujitsu Racing||N.Percat/T.Blanchard||Holden Commodore ZB||160||3:13:16.8889|
|12||18||Irwin Racing||M.Winterbottom/S.Richards||Holden Commodore ZB||160||3:13:20.6436|
|13||14||Freightliner Racing||T.Slade/A.Walsh||Holden Commodore ZB||160||3:13:29.2399|
|14||33||Boost Mobile Racing||R.Stanaway/C.Pither||Holden Commodore ZB||160||3:13:36.7720|
|15||78||Team Harvey Norman||S.De Silvestro/A.Rullo||Nissan Altima||160||3:13:44.6183|
|16||56||Boost Mobile Kostecki Brothers||B.Kostecki/J.Kostecki||Holden Commodore ZB||160||3:13:57.2875|
|17||97||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||S.van Gisbergen/G.Tander||Holden Commodore ZB||159||3:13:39.1687|
|18||21||Team CoolDrive||M.Jones/D.Canto||Holden Commodore ZB||159||3:13:56.0383|
|19||19||Truck Assist TEKNO Racing||J.Le Brocq/J.Webb||Holden Commodore ZB||159||3:14:06.7681|
|20||35||Bigmate Racing||T.Hazelwood/J.Smith||Holden Commodore ZB||148||3:13:11.5439|
|21||6||Monster Energy Racing Team||C.Waters/M.Caruso||Ford Mustang GT||145||3:13:28.7583|
|22||15||Castrol Racing||R.Kelly/D.Wood||Nissan Altima||128||3:13:28.4137|
|DNF||34||Boost Mobile Racing||J.Golding/R.Muscat||Holden Commodore ZB||155||3:11:41.6069|
|DNF||3||RABBLE.club Racing||G.Jacobson/D.Fiore||Nissan Altima||144||3:00:41.5137|
|DNF||9||Penrite Racing||D.Reynolds/L.Youlden||Holden Commodore ZB||30||35:58.6088|
|2||Shane van Gisbergen||3064|
|13||Anton De Pasquale||1979|
|19||Simona De Silvestro||1465|
|21||Jack Le Brocq||1223|