The stage has been set for a grand finale to the V8 Supercar season tomorrow for Pirtek Racing's Marcos Ambrose after the series leader blitzed the field to win race one of the VIP Petfoods Main Event at Eastern Creek Raceway today.
Ambrose, who started from fourth on the grid, made a great start in the 150km race moving up to second by the first corner behind pole sitter, Holden Racing Team's Mark Skaife.
Then the gods smiled on the Ford star as his two main series rivals, Skaife and K-Mart Racing Team's Greg Murphy, received drive through penalties for separate infringements.
Firstly Skaife brought out a black flag for jumping the start to hand the lead and command of the race over to Ambrose.
Then Murphy was making ground through the field after starting from 14th to reach a race high of sixth before making contact with Glenn Seton (Ford Performance Racing), forcing the Ford driver into a spin.
This incident attracted a black flag for Murphy which ended any chance for the Holden star to win today's race.
Ambrose dominated the rest of the 39-lap race staying clear of trouble in a near faultless display by both driver and Pirtek Racing pit crew.
In front a large crowd in warm Sydney conditions, Ambrose took the checkered flag by close to 15 seconds from Team Brock's Jason Bright, with Holden Racing Team's Todd Kelly claiming third.
Caltex Havoline Racing's Russell Ingall finished fourth, with Skaife making headway after his penalty to place eighth and Murphy 24th.
Today's win gives Ambrose a 91-point lead in the championship from Skaife who is two points clear of Murphy going into the final race of the season tomorrow at the VIP Petfoods Main Event.
Even if Skaife or Murphy win tomorrow's race then Ambrose only has to finish 31st or better in the 32-car field to claim his first V8 Supercar crown.
"It's not over yet," said Ambrose. "It has been a great day and it has come despite a lot of pressure.
"This has gone a long way to reaching our goal of winning the championship and it would be great to finish the season by claiming the 'double' tomorrow.
"I thought we had a car good enough to take pole and win the race, but I don't think the track conditions were near their best when I went out to do my time in the shootout.
"Both the other guys fighting for the championship (Murphy and Skaife) had tough races today and that has eased the pressure.
"I had one of my best starts for the year and that set me up for a good result.
"I struggled with my starts last year and it is something I have really worked on this season.
"I had a solid pit stop and once that was over I settled into a rhythm. I think I had a little bit in reserve."
Second placegetter in today's race Jason Bright was pleased with his result considering challenges he has faced.
"I'm obviously very happy considering I missed the first session yesterday with a flat battery and even more time with the new all-field shootout which nullified qualifying," said Bright.
"To qualify third and end up second in the race is very satisfying. DNFs at Sandown and Bathurst ended our championship hopes but we've had a good car at Indy, New Zealand and here. We want to finish the season on a high note tomorrow."
Going into the race as the main challenger to Ambrose's series lead, Murphy finished the race in disappointment.
"Let's just say there were some questionable tactics today and as far as the championship goes I am bitterly disappointed," said Murphy.
More than 17,700 (Friday -- 6079, Saturday -- 11,629) have attended the first two days at the VIP Petfoods Main Event with a record crowd expected tomorrow.
Race two starts at 2.30pm tomorrow, with a full day of entertainment planned in what is set to be one of the biggest days in Sydney motorsport history. Tickets for the VIP Petfoods Main Event are available at the gate.