Whincup closes in on championship leader
TeamVodafone's Jamie Whincup has narrowed the championship points gap after finishing second in what was a thrilling first leg of the Norton 360 Sandown Challenge, while team-mate Craig Lowndes finished 8th.
Race 23, which was originally 39 laps, was shortened to 32 laps today due to a red-flag incident where Garth Tander slid off the back-straight into a wall.
At the race re-start, Whincup was able to make a quick getaway off the start-line but a slower than normal pitstop afforded Paul Dumbrell the race lead.
The car #1 driver, who snagged pole position for today's race, wasn't able to find the speed to surpass Dumbrell and finished the race second.
Now just 32 points behind series leader James Courtney, Whincup said he was feeling confident heading into tomorrow's 200km race.
"We pushed the limits today and got a satisfying run but we will definitely be looking over the car tonight," Whincup admitted.
"Towards the end, I felt like the car was losing pace. We did the best we could, I really wanted the win towards my championship but I'm happy with second.
"The team did a great job and I'm feeling confident heading into tomorrow and am looking forward to what it will bring," Whincup said.
Lowndes, who is fourth on the Championship leader board with 2495 points, fell short of the Top Ten Shootout after a disappointing qualifying run which saw him finish 12th.
Despite an early pit-stop on lap 6 of race, Lowndes said he didn't manage to obtain the speed he was looking for to progress in the race.
"I got a good start and kept out of trouble. Early car pace wasn't quite there and we had to wait for the tyre to get up to temperature," Lowndes said.
"We pitted early, only for rear tyres and made some bar adjustments to suit the tyre grip and I rejoined the race in the same position. We pushed hard to maintain our track position as people were pitting around the same time.
"Although our car set-up didn't quite have the speed that I needed earlier in the race, it helped to look after the tyre longer than others. As we did more laps I was able to catch and pass a few of the drivers, finishing in 8th position scoring good points for the championship," he stated.
Qualifying will kick-off at 11:15am tomorrow followed by Race 24 (65 laps) at 3:05pm (EDST).