Scott McLaughlin says he was “stoked” to wrestle a damaged Ford Mustang to seventh in Race 19 at the NTI Townsville SuperSprint but believes he might have been able to finish higher.
A mistake in qualifying meant the Kiwi failed to progress from the second phase of qualifying into the Top 10 shootout and ultimately saw him start the race from 16th.
Despite suffering damage on the opening lap, McLaughlin came through to finish seventh and soften the blow of Jamie Whincup’s dominant win.
“I’m pretty stoked,” said McLaughlin.
“It was a bad result by me in qualifying, the boys put me on a great strategy, the car was good, P7, bring on tomorrow.”
The Shell V-Power Racing Team driver was among the drivers to suffer damage in the Turn 2 incident on Lap 1, the rear of his car centre punched in the process.
Despite that, the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship points leader managed to come through the Lap 1 melee in eighth.
“Everyone braked pretty deep into (Turn 2),” McLaughlin recalled of the first lap drama.
“I tried to hold back a little bit, and then I just saw smoke and an Erebus car spun out.
“We got through there pretty good, but I copped a massive whack up the backside. I think we had a little bit of damage throughout the race.”
McLaughlin was the first of the top 10 runners to pit for tyres and seek an undercut on Lap 8.
The 27-year-old chose to take three tyres while his rivals Scott Pye and Lee Holdsworth chose to only take two tyres a lap later.
Ultimately, a slow left rear tyre change and the additional time to take a left front tyre meant McLaughlin returned to the race behind Pye and Holdsworth.
If not for the pair pitting a lap after McLaughlin, the Kiwi said he believed he could have usurped them with an undercut.
“I think if we were able to do one more lap on our good tyre before they pitted, we might have had track position on them and then, who knows?” said McLaughlin.
“I was going to push at the start, and then Holdsworth jumped me, and they got the pit strategy.
“It’s very hard to pass, especially when we’re on uneven tyres. I just tried to back off and cool my tyres for five or 10 laps and then come through a bit harder at the end.
“That’s when we managed to get ahead of Holdsworth and Pye.”
McLaughlin’s lead in the championship between himself and Race 19 winner Whincup has narrowed following a dominant performance from the Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver.
Back-to-back qualifying sessions for Race 20 and Race 21 gets underway at 10:40 local time/AEST on Sunday.