Scott McLaughlin said he was happy to play it safe for a ‘big picture’ podium in Race 26 at The Bend while title rival Jamie Whincup started rearwards.
The Shell V-Power Racing Team driver started the second race at The Bend Motorsport Park from pole position, but ceded the lead to eventual race winner Shane van Gisbergen at Turn 1.
McLaughlin maintained second position through to the compulsory pit stops.
Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver Jamie Whincup was already at a disadvantage having only qualified 11th.
His woes were compounded in the pit stop sequence, suffering a slow stop due to an air spike issue.
Once the pit stop sequence had cycled through, McLaughlin maintained second behind Walkinshaw Andretti United driver Chaz Mostert.
Meanwhile, van Gisbergen dropped into third, albeit only briefly as he made quick work of McLaughlin and Mostert and went back to the lead.
Shortly thereafter, McLaughlin engaged with Mostert for second on the road, but both drivers were passed by Kelly Racing driver Andre Heimgartner who surged from fourth at Turn 6.
McLaughlin made his way past Mostert too, the latter suffering on blistered tyres and eventually falling to 11th.
With Whincup starting rearwards, McLaughlin said he was conscious not to fight too hard in the battle for the podium.
“Shane, on the race line, could brake heaps deeper,” McLaughlin said of the race start.
“I was a bit safe and probably gave away a little bit there.
“It’s big picture stuff today. We obviously knew that Jamie was back a fair bit so it was all about getting some points.
“The car feels really good, had a good battle with Chaz and Andre, it was awesome fun.”
McLaughlin said he as taken aback by the move from Heimgartner, having expected only to be battling with Mostert at Turn 6.
“I said to Andre ‘that was a good move’ because I had no idea that Andre went (for the pass),” said McLaughlin.
“I was fully focused on Chaz and then I saw a white car down the side of me and I’m like ‘far out!’ It was a bloody good move and that’s why we go racing, good stuff.”
Third place for McLaughlin and 17th for Whincup means the gap between the pair in the drivers’ championship has grown to 201 points.
McLaughlin will start the final race of the Repco SuperSprint at The Bend Motorsport Park from pole position while Whincup will start from third.