Jamie Whincup took Race 1 honours at the Sydney 500, while team-mate Craig Lowndes did just enough to stop Mark Winterbottom from securing the V8 Supercars title.
An early round of pit-stops proved crucial for Whincup, who used his favourable position in the lane to jump from third to first ahead of Shane van Gisbergen and Winterbottom.
It was a lead he was able to hold until the end, despite ongoing pressure from van Gisbergen, who spent the last 26 laps shadowing the #1 Commodore.
The gap between the pair was just one second at the checkers.
“It was all about the pit-stops today,” said Whincup. “I’m pretty out of breath, it’s bloody hot out there. I’ll try and cool down a bit, there’s another 125 kilometres to go.”
It was actually pole-sitter Winterbottom who made the best of the starts and led for the first lap.
But the points leader – on the verge of securing a maiden title – wasted no time switching to conservative mode. On just the second lap, he let van Gisbergen through for the lead, and when Winterbottom then found himself back in front of the Kiwi after the pair made those early stops, he waved him back through straight away.
Winterbottom then happily conceded spots to Jason Bright and James Courtney, slotting into a rhythm in what was effectively P5 in front of Tim Slade – a position he held until the finish.
“It’s the big picture. If I'd had the car I would have had a crack, but just didn’t have the pace,” he said.
“When you’re vulnerable, fifth is an awesome position. I’ll just try and get it done now, and tomorrow have a red-hot go.”
For title rival Craig Lowndes, it was all about making up enough positions to keep the title fight alive heading into this evening’s second race. Starting from the back of the grid, Triple Eight elected to leave Lowndes out nice and long to give him clearer air.
The strategy worked well enough. Lowndes didn’t pit until Lap 23, running as high as third before slotting into P16, then improving to P15 at the finish. That was enough to ensure the championship battle lives on until at least the end of the second sprint race today.