Team Vodafone's Craig Lowndes completed a strong weekend for the team with victory in race two of the Bigpond 300 at Barbagallo as his team-mate Jamie Whincup moved a step closer to back-to-back V8 Supercar titles.
Lowndes ran in the top ten in the first half of the race, but when Jason Bargwanna tapped Todd Kelly into a spin at the final turn and Lee Holdsworth slammed into Kelly's door and brought out the safety car just before half-distance, it completely changed the complexion of the race.
Lowndes changed to slightly-used sprint tyres and charged through from tenth to the lead in nine laps, steadily opening the margin from that point onwards before easing his pace and cruising home in the closing laps.
Steven Johnson finished second after taking on sprints at his pitstop under the mid-race safety car, charging his way up from 17th at the restart on lap 46 to take the second step on the podium.
Third and fourth, and separated by a quarter of a second at the finish, were Garth Tander and Jamie Whincup. Both drivers used sprint tyres early in the race, and so were on the standard control tyres after the restart as they restarted in first and fifth.
They dropped as low as sixth and eighth with 13 of the 84 laps remaining before the cars on sprint tyres started to fall into their laps as the control tyres maintained their grip while the sprint tyres fell away.
Despite losing grip late in the race, the next five cars were on sprint tyres, with Russell Ingall fifth ahead of Jason Bright, Jason Bargwanna, Steven Richards and Cameron McConville, Richards recovering from a late-race off where he dropped to tenth with six laps remaining before making up two places on the second-last lap.
James Courtney completed the top-ten in tenth position, eight places behind Jim Beam team-mate Johnson, but the only car apart from Tander and Whincup in third and fourth on the standard control tyres that finished in the top-ten.
The incident between Bargwanna, Kelly and Holdsworth not only ended Kelly and Holdsworth's races and shuffled everyone's strategy. With his car mortally wounded, Holdsworth drove through the pits and parked his car to retire.
However, this left fluid on the track exiting the final corner as well as through pit entry and part of pitlane. Several cars went sideways, and one car hit the tractor tyres at the entry of pitlane after slipping on the fluid.
That car was Holden Racing Team's Will Davison, and despite only travelling at around 40 km/h, the damage to the front left of his car forced him to retire just one lap later, all but ending his hopes of winning this year's championship.
With one round to go at another new street venue, this time around the 2000 Olympics precinct at Homebush, Whincup has extended his lead over Davison to 281 points with 300 points available at the series finale. A 28th place finish or two 29th place finishes will be enough to secure Whincup the title even if Davison wins both races.
Today's events played into Davison's team-mate Garth Tander's hands. The margin between the two Holden Racing Team cars is now down to 128 points, with the second Vodafone car of Craig Lowndes an outside chance to beat Tander, 222 points behind him, Lowndes unable to fall any further back in the order.
Pos Driver Make Time
1. Craig Lowndes Ford Falcon FG 1h27m42.4547s
2. Steven Johnson Ford Falcon FG + 11.1607s
3. Garth Tander Holden Commodore VE + 13.8016s
4. Jamie Whincup Ford Falcon FG + 14.0469s
5. Russell Ingall Holden Commodore VE + 20.6538s
6. Jason Bright Ford Falcon FG + 24.3398s
7. Jason Bargwanna Holden Commodore VE + 25.2107s
8. Steven Richards Ford Falcon FG + 28.2625s
9. Cameron McConville Holden Commodore VE + 31.1981s
10. James Courtney Ford Falcon FG + 31.3789s
11. Fabian Coulthard Ford Falcon FG + 32.2929s
12. Paul Dumbrell Holden Commodore VE + 40.1478s
13. Shane Van Gisbergen Ford Falcon FG + 40.8522s
14. Jason Richards Holden Commodore VE + 41.6065s
15. David Reynolds Holden Commodore VE + 41.9546s
16. Rick Kelly Holden Commodore VE + 44.9464s
17. Mark Winterbottom Ford Falcon FG + 45.7059s
18. Michael Caruso Holden Commodore VE + 52.5775s
19. Greg Murphy Holden Commodore VE + 53.0860s
20. Dean Fiore Holden Commodore VE + 1 lap
21. Alex Davison Ford Falcon FG + 1 lap
22. Tim Slade Holden Commodore VE + 1 lap
23. Tony D'Alberto Holden Commodore VE + 1 lap
24. Jack Perkins Holden Commodore VE + 1 lap
25. Mark McNally Holden Commodore VE + 2 laps
Driver Make Laps
Will Davison Holden Commodore VE 41
Lee Holdsworth Holden Commodore VE 39
Todd Kelly Holden Commodore VE 38
Michael Patrizi Ford Falcon BF 29