Whincup tightens V8 grip at Winton
Holden’s Jamie Whincup left Winton Raceway last year psychologically battered and having lost the V8 Supercar championship lead.
This year, it is his rivals needing therapy, with Whincup tightening his grip on top of the points table at the northeast Victorian track with his fifth win in 10 races this year.
The Holden driver won the weekend’s opening race on Saturday to extend his championship lead over Team Vodafone teammate Craig Lowndes.
Regardless of what happens in Sunday’s second race, Whincup will leave Winton with the championship lead – unlike last year when he was embarrassingly bogged in a sandtrap and eventual winner James Courtney took control of the title.
“It’s a big deal. We lost the lead of the championship here and we never ever recovered,” Whincup said.
“This year we come here with a question mark … today all things are on track.
“Our pace during the race was very good and we were able to control the race from there.
“I’m just happy to be leading the championship.”
Whincup has blown apart what was shaping up an an open championship with three wins in the past four races.
His Winton victory followed dual triumphs in Perth three weeks ago.
Chasing his third championship, Whincup holds a 220-point lead over Lowndes, with 150 points on offer for a race win.
Lowndes had the ideal opportunity to slice Whincup’s championship lead, qualifying on pole position for the 40-lap race.
But he botched the start, then had problems late in the race to finish 11th.
Whincup started from third on the grid, but drove a steady race and benefited from a better pit stop than his rivals to go on to take victory.
Sitting second once the dust had cleared following Lowndes’ early demise, Whincup inherited top spot when Ford’s Steve Johnson was unable to negotiate a quicker pit stop than his rival who pitted a lap earlier.
From then on it was processional, with Whincup lapping consistently to secure the win.
“The guys did an awesome pit stop, and that’s what got us out in front,” Whincup said.
Johnson eventually finished third, edged out by Holden driver Lee Holdsworth for second.
West Australian Karl Reindler, racing for the first time since his fiery crash in Perth three weeks ago, finished 20th of the 28 drivers.
A morning qualifying session will determine grid positions for Sunday afternoon’s second race.© AAP 2013