Jamie Whincup secured his fourth V8 Supercars title by charging back from a penalty to finish third at Winton, as his Triple 8 Holden teammate Craig Lowndes claimed victory.
Whincup had dropped down to 25th place when he was given a drive-through penalty for spinning his wheels before being lowered to the ground at the first pit stops. The drama came shortly after Whincup had taken the lead of the race for the first time.
The early laps had been led by Will Davison, the only front-runner to take the start on soft tire s. But an early safety car hurt his strategy, and as the Ford Performance Racing Falcon got tangled up with Michael Patrizi, who had not pitted under the caution, at the restart, Whincup blasted through.
Once the points leader's penalty was imposed, it was Whincup's remaining title rival Mark Winterbottom up front for the middle part of the race. Lowndes had been delayed queuing behind Whincup in the stops, but was making assertive progress through the order. He caught Winterbottom shortly after both had made their final pit visits, and rapidly got past, assuming the lead for good once the whole field had pitted.
As Winterbottom fell away from Lowndes in second, the championship was moving ever further out of the FPR man's reach given Whincup's spectacular comeback drive. The reigning champion reached the top 10 shortly after the final stops, and then gained another seven places over the remaining 20 laps.
With seven tours to go, Whincup had caught the tight battle for third between Shane van Gisbergen, Tim Slade and David Reynolds. Fourth would have been enough to wrap up the title with one meeting to go, but Whincup ultimately passed all three and could celebrate from the podium.
Van Gisbergen had to settle for resisting Slade and Jason Bright for fourth, as Reynolds was shuffled back to eighth behind Jonathon Webb.
Davison's strategy left him on hard rubber in the final stint when most rivals were running softs, and he could do nothing to avoid tumbling to 11th place.
Results - 67 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Craig Lowndes Triple 8 Holden 1h38m39.4858s
2. Mark Winterbottom FPR Ford + 5.8117s
3. Jamie Whincup Triple 8 Holden + 8.6525s
4. Shane van Gisbergen Stone Brothers Ford + 15.8357s
5. Tim Slade Rosenberg/SBR Ford + 17.0503s
6. Jason Bright Brad Jones Holden + 17.4173s
7. Jonathon Webb Tekno Holden + 19.9163s
8. David Reynolds Rod Nash/FPR Ford + 22.5315s
9. Russell Ingall Walkinshaw/HRT Holden + 25.0097s
10. Lee Holdsworth Stone Brothers Ford + 28.2708s
11. Will Davison FPR Ford + 30.0270s
12. Fabian Coulthard Brad Jones Holden + 32.9406s
13. Garth Tander HRT Holden + 34.1188s
14. Dean Fiore Triple F/DJR Ford + 44.6906s
15. Karl Reindler Kelly Holden + 45.1772s
16. Michael Caruso Garry Rogers Holden + 45.4707s
17. James Moffat Dick Johnson Ford + 45.5955s
18. James Courtney HRT Holden + 51.7924s
19. Rick Kelly Kelly Holden + 59.7698s
20. Steve Owen Paul Morris/DJR Ford + 1m00.3699s
21. Alexandre Premat Garry Rogers Holden + 1m08.7355s
22. Tim Blanchard Kelly Holden + 1m17.8575s
23. Tony D'Alberto D'Alberto Ford + 1m23.5198s
24. Taz Douglas Dumbrell Holden + 1m24.0854s
25. David Wall Britek/BJR Holden + 1m24.1330s
26. Steven Johnson Dick Johnson Ford + 1 lap
27. Michael Patrizi Tekno Holden + 1 lap
Greg Murphy Kelly Holden 66 laps