Jamie Whincup clinched a record seventh Australian Supercars Championship crown after a climactic final race of the season in Newcastle.
In a season in which Whincup has found himself chasing DJR Team Penske Falcon driver Scott McLaughlin, the Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden Commodore driver had to come from behind in the final round at Newcastle to take the crown.
Saturday’s leg of the two-race Newcastle street circuit decider was a disaster for Whincup, who finished well down after being involved in a lap-one melee with the Nissan of Michael Caruso.
With McLaughlin taking the win, the Ford driver looked set to clinch the title in Sunday’s race.
But a penalty for speeding in the pitlane sentenced McLaughlin to the rear, and his recovery through the field would be delayed by a further penalty for nudging Simons de Silvestro’s Nissan into a spin.
With Whincup’s Triple Eight team-mate and outgoing champion Shane van Gisbergen moving aside so that second placed Whincup could assume the lead, McLaughlin then needed to finish at least 11th to deny Whincup the crown.
The Falcon driver achieved that position by passing James Moffat's Commodore at the end of the penultimate lap. But McLaughlin then slid wide at turn one into the final lap, allowing the third Triple Eight team Commodore of Craig Lowndes to challenge. McLaughlin squeezed Lowndes to the wall and the two cars touched, with Lowndes crashing heavily.
McLaughlin went on to cross the line in 11th place but was later given a time penalty that dropped him to 18th. As a result, Whincup is the new champion.
“Oh man, I just gave it my all, gave it my all for the boys,” a devastated McLaughlin said.
“I lost my left-hand mirror early and obviously I knew we (he and Lowndes) were close but not that close. I defended my line to (turn) two and we interlocked. I genuinely didn’t mean to push him into the wall and to get pinged like that.
“I just feel sorry for the guys, we shouldn’t be in the position. To all our fans who have stuck by us and our sponsors I am so sorry, I wish we could have done it for them. At least we have got the team’s Championship.
“I am 24 years old, I will have another crack yet.”
Whincup must now surely be considered Australia’s greatest-ever touring car driver, having now won more titles than Dick Johnson, Mark Skaife and Ian Geoghegan.
Not that he was aware of it at the time as he crossed the finish line.
“I assumed I came second when the crew said I got number one,” he said. “Massive event for everyone, I was so glad we were able to put on a good show.
“We fought hard, didn’t have the quickest car all year but it is all about team-work and sport is all mental. A massive thanks to the car 17 crew, they stepped up this year and gave us an unbelievable fight. Commiserations to them.
“No doubt Scotty will go on to win the next eight but I am glad we got one.”