Team Vodafone's Craig Lowndes took victory in the first race of this weekend's Australian V8 Supercar event at Winton Motor Raceway, leading home a team 1-2.
Lowndes ran in the top five in the early laps as drivers ran a variety of strategies in the first race that drivers could choose to use a softer tire for part or all of the race.
But his decision to switch on to the softer tire at his mid-race pit stop proved decisive when the safety car came on to the track on lap 21 for a stranded Jason Bargwanna. He restarted fifth but led within three laps thanks to his extra pace versus those either on worn soft tires or the slower standard tires.
His teammate Jamie Whincup finished second after taking his pitstop for fuel at the end of lap one, his decision to run the softer tires throughout the race almost costing him at the very end as a hard-charging Steven Richards harassed him for the last couple of laps.
Fourth was Rick Kelly, another to use the softer tire, just ahead of Cameron McConville who started 12th. After his big off in qualifying sixth was a remarkable result for Shane van Gisbergen, having started the race in 27th place.
There was an extremely close battle for seventh place on the final lap, Will Davison beating team-mate Garth Tander by just over four-hundredths of a second, with Supercheap's Russell Ingall less than a hundredth behind Tander, the three cars virtually crossing the line as one.
Tander had had a troubled race, spun on lap three by Fabian Coulthard while in second place. Just after the restart on lap 23, side-to-side contact entering the final corner left Tander with two heavily damaged doors on the right of the car, and Winterbottom with damaged steering, which saw Winterbottom slide from the top ten to 25th.
Lap 26 and Tander dived inside Lee Holdsworth for fourth at turn seven. But on the exit Tander didn't give Holdsworth enough room and the two cars made contact, possibly damaging the steering of Holdsworth's car, Holdsworth going straight ahead, Tander sent spinning again.
Tander fell to fourteenth but recovered to eighth, while Holdsworth finished 23rd a lap down.
Holdsworth's team-mate Michael Caruso finished tenth but was the big loser when the safety car came out. Starting on the soft tyres, he had a lead of around seven seconds over Whincup when the safety car came out, and over 30 seconds over eventual winner Lowndes.
But he couldn't find the same pace after the safety car period ended and fell down the order in the closing laps.
Pos Driver Make Time
1. Craig Lowndes Ford 49:26.6167
2. Jamie Whincup Ford + 4.1671
3. Steven Richards Ford + 4.3868
4. Rick Kelly Holden + 10.0834
5. Cameron McConville Holden + 10.6708
6. Shane Van Gisbergen Ford + 14.3185
7. Will Davison Holden + 16.8908
8. Garth Tander Holden + 16.9327
9. Russell Ingall Holden + 16.9425
10. Michael Caruso Holden + 18.1989
11. Tony D'Alberto Holden + 20.5874
12. Steven Johnson Ford + 21.2424
13. Jason Richards Holden + 24.0772
14. Jason Bright Ford + 26.1772
15. Fabian Coulthard Ford + 27.4627
16. Paul Dumbrell Holden + 27.6956
17. Marcus Marshall Ford + 28.1384
18. Tim Slade Holden + 29.1118
19. Jack Perkins Holden + 35.5171
20. David Reynolds Holden + 40.3301
21. Alex Davison Ford + 1 lap
22. Greg Murphy Holden + 1 lap
23. Lee Holdsworth Holden + 1 lap
24. Dale Wood Holden + 1 lap
25. Mark Winterbottom Ford + 1 lap
26. Jason Bargwanna Holden + 3 laps
Driver Make Laps
Dean Fiore Holden 19
James Courtney Ford 17
Michael Patrizi Ford 6