It was a season which followed a very similar pattern to 2017 as DJR Team Penske and Triple Eight battled it out for the drivers and teams championships. Whilst in 2017 it was Triple Eight who secured the drivers (Whincup) and DJR Team Penske who secure the teams, the spoils were reversed this season as Scott McLaughlin claimed his, and DJR Team Penske’s first drivers title. As part of my Supercars end of season review I’ll be assessing the fortunes of drivers and teams all the way down the grid, and today I’m looking at drivers who finished 26th – 13th in the standings. Read on for my assessment and verdict on the 2018 season.
12th – Mark Winterbottom – 2192 points. Best result 2nd (Barbagallo)
2018 marked the end of an era for Frosty as the sun set on his 13-year association with Tickford Racing and Ford in Supercars. Team 18-bound for 2019 with sponsor Irwin Tools in tow, the second stage of Frosty’s Supercars career will look very different in a Holden ZB Commodore but there’s no denying his Ford legacy as one of their top drivers in the last two decades.
His final season at Tickford was a tough one, and Frosty managed just one podium all year long in race two at Barbagallo. The Bottle-O’ Falcon FG X was rarely on the pace and infrequently troubled the frontrunners, factors which ultimately resulted in a pretty forgettable year for the 2015 champion. It will be a completely new beginning in 2019, and he sure needs one after a tough couple of seasons.
11th – Tim Slade – 2249 points. Best result 4th (Albert Park, Barbagallo, The Bend)
It was a solid season for Tim Slade who repeated his 2017 position of 11th in the standings at BJR. He finished every single race, and his season-best finish of 4th came three times at Albert Park, Barbagallo and The Bend. Slade was one of those who went under the radar in 2019, never featuring often at the head of the field but also never falling to the back of the pack either. Overall it was more of the same consistency and results we’re used to seeing Slade produce, but I’m sure he’ll be keen to get back inside the championship’s top ten next year.
10th – Nick Percat – 2290 points. Best result 2nd (Albert Park)
2018 was Percat’s best ever year in Supercars and I think he’s starting to mature into a really good driver. Destined for great things after securing that memorable Bathurst victory alongside Tander in 2011, I feel that we’ve never quite seen the best of Nick Percat despite him now having completed five full seasons in the series. He scored two strong podium finishes at Albert Park early on in the year and then spent the remainder of the season around the lower reaches of the top ten. We can’t overlook the fact that it was his best season to date, but I’d be interested to see what he could do in top machinery.
9th – Fabian Coulthard – 2477 points. Best result 1st (Winton)
You can’t put it any other way, 2018 was a horror show for Coulthard, a driver who many of us expected to be once again challenging for the title. A change of engineer can’t have helped but it was a torrid year for a driver who should have finished much higher up in the table. A solitary race win at Winton was a welcome result, but I fear that 2019 will be make or break for him at DJR Team Penske. I’m convinced Coulthard is a driver should be finishing inside the championship’s top four, especially in some of the best equipment on the grid but I’m sure he know too. We didn’t see the best Fabian Coulthard in 2019, but I hope we do next year.
8th – Rick Kelly – 2515 points. Best result 1st (Winton)
The highest placed of the Nissans, Rick Kelly enjoyed his best season in an Altima and best end of year placing since 2011 with an 8th place finish a season-best victory at Winton. In a year where all of his teammates struggled, Kelly was the shining light of the Nissans and was the only driver to end the year with any measure of success. Kelly had a brilliant run of form mid-season, bookmarked by a slower start and finish to the year but it was a good year nonetheless, and one which he’ll look to build on with an Indepenent Kelly Racing in 2019.
7th – Scott Pye – 2608 points. Best result 1st (Albert Park)
2018 was Pye’s best season in Supercars and one which secured his maiden race victory at Albert Park. He beat teammate Courtney for the second season in a row and followed up by making it two Bathurst 1000 2nd place finishes in two years. Clearly the fastest driver at Walkinshaw Andretti United, I’m so pleased to see Pye have a strong season after he was dumped by DJR Team Penske at the end of 2016. Bathurst aside, the second half of his season didn’t go as well as the first, but nevertheless, it was assured and mature performance from a driver who is growing into a real contender for a drive at a top team.
6th – Chaz Mostert – 2807 points. Best result 1st (Surfers Paradise)
The best of the Tickford stable, 2018 can’t have been the season Mostert was hoping for but given the performance of the other three Tickford cars, I’m led to believe that Mostert’s final season standing of 6th is nothing short of incredible. I think he’s probably been the fastest man at Tickford since mid-2015 and at the age of 26 he’s maturing into a driver who I think will title in the future. Mostert had a great run from race two at Townsville through to the end of the season but it was the opening few races which let him down, and he’ll be keen to be top of the Mustangs in 2019.
5th – David Reynolds – 3206 points. Best result 1st (Albert Park, Hidden Valley, Newcastle)
His best season since 2015 and the year he came so so close to back to back Bathurst wins, despite being full-time in Supercars since 2011 this year was the one where Reynolds really established himself as a top, top driver. Erebus have been steadily improving since Reynolds joined at the start of 2016, and they made another surge of progress this year with the #9 Commodore clearly best of the rest behind DJR Team Penske and Triple Eight. You can’t fault Reynolds in 2018, it was a brilliant season from the Albury man.
4th – Craig Lowndes – 3225 points. Best result 1st (Symmons Plains, Bathurst)
It was always going to happen in the coming seasons, but it still came as a shock when Craig Lowndes announced he was stepping down from full-time driving. A legend of the sport, and of motorsport in general, it was yet another solid year for Lowndes who won at Symmons Plains and at Bathurst along with a handful of podiums during the course of the season. Never quite in the title fight, Lowndes recovered well this year from his tough 2017 and it’s going to take some time to adjust to not seeing him on the Supercars grid full time.
3rd – Jamie Whincup – 3433 points. Best result 1st (Albert Park, Symmons Plains, Townsville, Sandown)
It’s crazy to think that 2018 was actually the first time Jamie Whincup had failed to defend the title after winning it, that’s how good he is. Although he was reduced to a support role for the conclusion of the 2019 title fight it was still another solid year for Whincup as he took four race victories including the Sandown 500 on his way to third in the standings. A tough run between Phillip Island and Darwin harmed his championship chances, especially when his rivals were winning races. But you can’t fault Whincup in 2018 and if the car is on song you can count on him being near the top of the table.
2nd – Shane Van Gisbergen – 3873 points. Best result 1st (Adelaide, Townsville, Queensland Raceway, Sydney Motorsport Park, The Bend, Pukekohe)
SVG drove an almost faultless year and came so close to winning his second Supercars title. A great start to the season and a brilliant run between Townsville and Sandown catapulted him into championship contention and just before the enduros, it looked like the momentum had swung back to SVG. In the end car #97 came just short of the title and a pitstop penalty after race one at Newcastle made the championship a difficult ask. Like Whincup, you can’t fault SVG this season and you can be sure of another championship challenge next year.
1st – Scott McLaughlin – 3944 points. Best result 1st (Albert Park, Phillip Island, Barbagallo, Hidden Valley, Queensland Raceway, Pukekohe, Newcastle)
After the heartbreak of last year it was only fitting that McLaughlin secured the title in the final race of 2018. The best driver all year, and the sole Ford in the top five of the championship McLaughlin enjoyed a sensational 2018 as he took his first Supercars title. His season really got going in race two at Symmons Plains as he began an incredible run of podium finishes which ended at The Bend. His only non-podium finish in that run was the 5th place in race one at Winton. Pre enduros it looked like the title may just fall away from McLaughlin as SVG came on strong, but a solid enduros and a brilliant end to the year ensured that he finished the year top of the standings. The best driver of the season for me at least, I’m sure this title will be the first of many.
Who impressed you in 2018 and who didn’t? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook.