Team Vodafone's Jamie Whincup returned to victory lane after holding on to win the second race of the Skycity Triple Crown at Hidden Valley, despite a fast-closing Mark Winterbottom late in the race.
Whincup, along with early leader Alex Davison, made the most of the soft tires at the start of the race. But with Winterbottom using his soft tires toward the end of the race, what had seemed a comfortable gap for Whincup quickly shrunk as Winterbottom charged back through the field.
Running 13th in the middle of the race on the harder tires, it probably appeared he was good for a top-five finish when he switched to the softs. But the difference in performance was more significant than expected, and just six laps after his pit stop he was in fourth position.
With 11 laps to go he was second and chasing Whincup down, but ultimately ran out of time to catch and overtake the leader. Shane van Gisbergen performed a similar feat to Winterbottom, vaulting from mid-pack to finish third.
Series leader Courtney was the next driver to use Whincup's strategy to take fourth. Lowndes should have finished in that place, but a pit stop which saw the car dropped with only three wheels on it cost him about 10 seconds. Nonetheless, once he had four soft tires, he made up huge ground in the closing laps.
Another strong performance by Tim Slade saw him move up from 14th on the grid to finish sixth, while Todd and Rick Kelly looked set for top-five finishes after battling with Whincup and Courtney in the first half of the race, only to drop down to eighth and ninth at the finish.
Steven Richards completing the top ten. Will Davison finished where he started, 11th, while Garth Tander got caught up in an incident at turn one on lap one and never fully recovered, finishing 19th.
The hard luck story of the day was maiden pole man Alex Davison, who led half the race and was just a couple of second behind Whincup after their second stops, until an electrical gremlin struck just after the pitstop, his car slowing to a crawl on track. He limped back to the pits but his day was over.
While points leader James Courtney didn't have a bad weekend, his points lead over Jamie Whincup halved from 114 points to 57. Lowndes remains third, now 246 points behind Courtney, with Shane van Gisbergen closing in, just 40 points behind Lowndes.
Pos Driver Make Time
1. Jamie Whincup Holden Commodore VE 1h24m35.0111s
2. Mark Winterbottom Ford Falcon FG + 4.0009s
3. Shane Van Gisbergen Ford Falcon FG + 6.8583s
4. James Courtney Ford Falcon FG + 16.8935s
5. Craig Lowndes Holden Commodore VE + 22.8749s
6. Tim Slade Ford Falcon FG + 25.5616s
7. Jason Richards Holden Commodore VE + 28.2032s
8. Todd Kelly Holden Commodore VE + 34.1017s
9. Rick Kelly Holden Commodore VE + 34.8879s
10. Steven Richards Ford Falcon FG + 35.9041s
11. Will Davison Holden Commodore VE + 38.9007s
12. Lee Holdsworth Holden Commodore VE + 40.4003s
13. Jonathon Webb Ford Falcon FG + 40.9716s
14. Fabian Coulthard Holden Commodore VE + 43.3163s
15. Michael Caruso Holden Commodore VE + 44.2006s
16. Steven Johnson Ford Falcon FG + 49.1844s
17. Tony D'Alberto Holden Commodore VE + 53.3298s
18. Greg Murphy Holden Commodore VE + 53.7928s
19. Garth Tander Holden Commodore VE + 55.9140s
20. Jason Bright Holden Commodore VE + 59.8941s
21. Jason Bargwanna Holden Commodore VE + 60.3981s
22. Dean Fiore Ford Falcon FG + 70.5553s
23. Paul Dumbrell Ford Falcon FG + 1 lap
24. Andrew Thompson Holden Commodore VE + 1 lap
25. Russell Ingall Holden Commodore VE + 1 lap
26. Karl Reindler Holden Commodore VE + 1 lap
27. Tony Ricciardello Holden Commodore VE + 1 lap
28. Daniel Gaunt Holden Commodore VE + 2 laps
Driver Make Laps
Alex Davison Ford Falcon FG 47