Jamie Whincup led home Craig Lowndes in a one-two for the Triple 8 Holden squad in the first race at Winton on Saturday to continue his march towards a fourth V8 Supercar title.
The race was dominated by tyre strategy after the safety car appeared to allow the wreckage of an opening lap shunt between Jason Bright, Rick Kelly and James Courtney to be cleared up.
The bunching-up that took place looked set to hand James Moffat an unlikely win after the Dick Johnson Ford driver started the race on the softer of the two compounds of tyre that must be used.
But his pace slackened off after he switched to the harder rubber later in the race, and Moffat could not prevent Whincup coming through for his 12th win of the year.
Lowndes was over three seconds behind by the chequered flag with Lee Holdsworth stepping onto the podium for the first time since joining the Stone Brothers Ford team in third.
Polesitter Mark Winterbottom, who ran out of fuel on the final lap and lost a spot to Holdsworth, was fourth. He now trails Whincup by 326 points, meaning his rival is likely to be crowned champion on Sunday. Moffat was fifth.
Next up were Tim Slade, Jonathon Webb, Garth Tander, Michael Patrizi and Tony d'Alberto, who took only his second top-10 finish of the 2012 season.
Stone Brothers Ford driver Shane van Gisbergen retired early on, the Kiwi pushing Will Davison's FPR Falcon into Tim Blanchard, who was the only one able to continue.
Results - 46 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jamie Whincup Triple 8 Holden 1h08m36.3754s 2. Craig Lowndes Triple 8 Holden + 1.706s 3. Lee Holdsworth Stone Brothers Ford + 13.600s 4. Mark Winterbottom FPR Ford + 13.638s 5. James Moffat Dick Johnson Ford + 19.056s 6. Tim Slade Rosenberg/SBR Ford + 20.757s 7. Jonathon Webb Tekno Holden + 29.950s 8. Garth Tander HRT Holden + 32.366s 9. Michael Patrizi Tekno Holden + 33.063s 10. Tony d'Alberto D'Alberto Ford + 38.304s 11. David Reynolds Rod Nash/FPR Ford + 44.624s 12. Russell Ingall Walkinshaw/HRT Holden + 46.376s 13. Rick Kelly Kelly Holden + 48.703s 14. Fabian Coulthard Kelly Holden + 55.044s 15. Steve Owen Paul Morris/DJR Ford + 58.804s 16. Steven Johnson Dick Johnson Ford + 1m03.376s 17. David Wall Britek/BJR Holden + 1m04.623s 18. Alexandre Premat Garry Rogers Holden + 1m11.221s 19. Dean Fiore Triple F/DJR Ford + 1m12.646s 20. Jason Bright Brad Jones Holden + 1m19.249s 21. Karl Reindler Kelly Holden + 1m19.989s 22. Tim Blanchard Kelly Holden + 1m23.666s 23. Taz Douglas Dumbrell Holden + 1 lap 24. James Courtney HRT Holden + 3 laps Retirements: Greg Murphy Kelly Holden 21 laps Will Davison FPR Ford 11 laps Shane van Gisbergen Stone Brothers Ford 9 laps Michael Caruso Garry Rogers Holden 0 laps
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