As the V8 Supercars head to sunny Surfers Paradise for the fourth last round of 2008, only three drivers remain in Championship contention.
Leading the pack is TeamVodafone’s Jamie Whincup, who has reclaimed the top spot on the Championship points table six months after his disastrous round at Hamilton.
His Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 win with Craig Lowndes earlier this month has projected him back up to the top, where he has a 33-point lead over Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom.
“I’ve been in this position before and I’m not even thinking about it, to be honest,” Whincup told BigPond Sport.
“Being in this position at the end of the year is the most important thing.
“Although I was shattered to lose it at Hamilton we fought hard and it’s great to be leading again.”
Whincup almost had the Indy round stitched up last year until a crash in race three, but hopes his luck will change at this weekend’s Coffee Club V8 Supercar challenge.
“It’s an awesome track; I love Indy,” he said.
“The track’s got a lot of character with the manhole covers and bumps on the track and concrete walls on either side of it.
“I’ve never gone very good there so hopefully this year I can turn it around.”
Winterbottom put his Falcon on pole at Indy last year, but his time was later excluded after his engine was found to have a technical infringement and he started race one from 29th position.
Frosty has recently played ‘second fiddle’ in the Championship points standings to Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander, who dropped from first to third after the Bathurst 1000.
But he said running second to a Falcon rather than a Commodore did not make it any easier.
“It doesn’t change things much,” he said.
“Whatever brand it is, you still want to be in front of them.
“It’s close; there’s three guys separated by not a lot of points and Indy is a very tough race so you’ve got a lot to deal with up there.”
Winterbottom said there was a lot of positives from his fourth place finish at Bathurst with teammate Steve Richards.
“I think at Bathurst it’s important to survive there and finishing was definitely the goal and we did that,” he said.
“Our car speed wasn’t as good as what it was up there last year, but we still got provisional pole and qualified in the shoot-out second.”
Winterbottom was thanking his lucky stars that his team has had a strong qualifying run.
“If there’s one place you need to qualify on pole it’s Indy,” he said.
“Once you’re in the pack you’re likely to get caught up in an accident, brake temperatures go through the roof when you’re behind someone and it’s hard to pass.
“Qualifying is the key to a strong weekend.”
Tander, who trails Whincup by only 82 points and won the Surfers Paradise round last year, believes this weekend will be a “cracker” of a round.
“We’ve said all along that we would focus on the Championship after Bathurst, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
“True, we’d rather be leading coming out of Bathurst, and I’m not saying we’re going to be leading after this weekend.
“But we’ll be looking to make some ground.”
With 1923 points, Lowndes sits fourth on the Championship points table but trails his team mate by more than one round worth of points.
Article: Bigpond Sports
Pictures: Ryan Schembri