Third for J-Dub on Sunday was a good way to wrap up a Winton weekend of cold weather and a red-hot opposition that’s showing no sign of slowing down.
By Matthew Clayton on redbull.com
Jamie Whincup was happy. Sort of, anyway.
“I thought we really maximised today,” the Red Bull Holden Racing Team star said after finishing third in Race 14 of the Supercars season at Winton on Sunday.
“We made a little step from last year.”
Jamie Whincup was unhappy. Sort of, anyway. “These guys made a giant leap,” he continued after Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard finished Sunday’s race in a Team Penske 1-2, which came after McLaughlin won Race 13 of the season as well on Saturday to create a bigger bulge in what was an already-imposing championship lead.
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It was a weekend of marginal gains at Winton for RBHRT, not so much in a championship sense given McLaughlin stretched his lead over the rest to 244 points before the halfway mark of the 2019 campaign, but for Whincup in particular the longer the weekend went.
Sixth in Saturday’s 40-lap race from 10th on the grid, J-Dub nailed his qualifying lap on Sunday to start third behind … well, you guessed it … and ended up in the same place after 67 laps, emerging victorious from an afternoon-long strategic battle with Erebus Racing’s David Reynolds that was only decided after a late-race safety car saw the final laps become a pulse-quickening sprint to the flag.
“I had an awesome battle with Dave through the pit stop strategies,” he said after his fifth podium of the season, and second in as many race meetings after finishing second in Race 12 in Perth last time out.
“We thought we blew it in the first pit stop we did, it seemed we may have probably pitted a bit early. We definitely were lucky to then get a second chance on the second stop which got us back in the lead. A good job by (David) Cauchi and the engineers to find the pace that we needed today.
“We were aiming for a podium as that was going to be our best result, and I’m happy to see that we got there in the end.”
Whincup now has 1168 points to rise one spot to fifth in the title race, which continued his happy/not happy demeanour.
“We’ll take P3 in Winton and forever keep trying to bridge the gap to the two cars ahead,” he said.
Whincup’s teammate Shane van Gisbergen didn’t have as much to smile about after Winton; truth be told, SVG would have been happy just to be able to see straight after an untimely eye infection affected the early part of his weekend, the Kiwi briefly resorting to sunglasses to cope with the glare and prevent the pain in Saturday practice.
Winton is a tough track to pass on even if you’re near the front, and qualifying defined SVG’s weekend; he started just 12th on Saturday before muscling his way to fifth in the race, and started even further back on Sunday (13th) before finishing seventh in a tight train of cars crawling all over one another after the safety car restart.
SVG went home to warmer climes – most places in late May are warmer than Winton, mind you – still in third place in the championship with 1231 points and, after 14 races, is the only Holden driver to deny Ford’s Mustang a clean sweep of the season to date thanks to his victory at Symmons Plains in April, McLaughlin taking his ninth and 10th wins of the year across the weekend.
“Today … much of the same again,” SVG said on Sunday after bemoaning a second straight day of qualifying woes dulling his potential for progress in the race.
“I had no confidence and no grip from the car, which just bites you in the end. I enjoyed the racing but unfortunately, I was too far back. I saw Cam (Waters) at the end, shook hands with him as it was a good race. A few little bumps in the end and almost got past him. It was a fun race, but I just wasn’t far enough in the front of the pack.”
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The Supercars series calendar now slows down after 14 races in three months to start the year, the mid-point of the season coming at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin on June 14-16. For SVG, the way up as the series shifts north is crystal-clear.
“For ourselves, we need to keep doing our best so we can be the best Holden team out on track,” he said on Sunday night.
“Keep finishing top five and earning points so we have a chance at the end of the season …”
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