What a year its been. The season-ending Newcastle 500 wasn’t without its drama and controversy as Scott McLaughlin and DJR Team Penske both secured their first Supercars drivers titles with a 2nd place finish on Sunday afternoon. It was a thoroughly deserved title victory and one which many felt was coming after they came so close to winning last year. With my full Supercars season review kicking off tomorrow, I’ve penned my thoughts on some of the biggest talking points from the Newcastle 500 in my final Weekend Wrap of 2018.
It’s a shame that we didn’t have the grandstand finish we were expecting on Sunday after Van Gisbergen was given a 25 second time penalty post race 30. If Saturday’s result had stood, the gap between the two on Sunday would have been just two points and whoever would have finished higher would have won the title. However, I do think that SVG’s penalty was deserved, even if the stewarding decisions have been inconsistent this season. The video footage clearly showed car #97 being lowered before the fuel hose was withdrawn. My mind goes back to Pukekohe, where there was more controversy surrounding the pitstops for car #97 where the wheels rotated. Personally, I think that instance should have been punished, so in my mind at least the penalties have come full circle.
Triple Eight and SVG have a right to be disappointed as they were looking so strong on Saturday at Newcastle, and easily had a chance of securing the title. Nevertheless, I’m sure they’ll be back up there again next year and could have an easier ride depending on how quickly the Ford teams can get on top of the new Mustang.
McLaughlin Fully Deserved His Championship
I don’t think you’ll find many who doubt McLaughlin’s ability behind the wheel of a Supercar and his decision to leave GRM for DJR Team Penske has bought him the title we all thought would come in his second season with the team. McLaughlin was the standout driver for me in 2018 and nine race wins, including that run of four straight victories at Philip Island and Barbagallo was the most out of any driver in the field. After the heartbreak of last year it would have been so cruel for McLaughlin and DJR Team Penske to miss out again, but now they have one in the bag I’m sure the floodgates are going to open. McLaughlin in one of the most talented young (if you can still call him that!) drivers in touring car racing and if he sticks around in Supercars I’m almost certain he’ll add more titles.
A 1st and a 2nd over the weekend ensured McLaughlin finished his championship year on the podium, and he showed his maturity by letting Reynolds through to take victory on Sunday. Himself and the team have enjoyed a stunning season and they thoroughly deserve the title. It was a fitting tribute to the Falcon in its final race in Supercars.
Erebus The Team Of 2018?
If the title battle was always destined to be fought out between DJR Team Penske and Tripe Eight, then I think Erebus have to win the accolade of most improved team of 2018. Their charge up the grid since Reynolds joined the team has been phenomenal and the #9 Commodore was best of the rest this year behind the usual suspects. Three race wins over the course of the season including in the final race at Newcastle marked just how far both Erebus and Reynolds have come and its brilliant to see them successful.
With SVG’s penalty dropping him to 5th place on Saturday, a 2nd and a 1st ensured that Reynolds was the joint highest points scorer at Newcastle although he did just miss out on pipping Craig Lowndes to 4th in the table. I’m excited to see just how much Erebus can push on next year and whether they can really challenge for the title. Anton de Pasquale finished 11th and 16th at Newcastle to end his rookie season 20th in the standings, and although his year wasn’t a disaster by any means, he’ll be looking to get much closer to Reynolds next season if he remains with the team.
It wasn’t the magic send off Craig Lowndes would have hoped for but it was an emotional weekend for anyone who considers themselves a fan of Supercars, and touring car racing in general. Craig Lowndes said goodbye to full-time Supercars driving with 23rd and 11th place finishes over the weekend, enough to secure himself 4th in the table. Lowndes was a victim of an unusual error during Saturday’s race where he misjudged the size of a gap in the pitlane which bought about his retirement. The in-car footage showed just how much the retirement got to him and I’m just pleased that he was able to finish Sunday’s race on track.
I’m sure we’ll see Lowndes around a lot next year and I can’t wait to see who he teams up with and how Triple Eight get on in the Enduros. Whoever of Whincup or SVG gets Lowndes will have by far and away the strongest Enduro lineup there is and will have a great chance to win the Enduro Cup.
Standout Moment – McLaughlin finally securing his first Supercars title after the heartbreak of last year
Standout Driver – David Reynolds closing the season on a high for Erebus
Most Dissapointing Moment – No Craig Lowndes victory in his final full-time Supercars race.
What was your highlight of the weekend? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!
My full Supercars season review is going to be published over the next few days featuring analysis, stats and interviews so keep an eye out!