Scott McLaughlin scores his first title as Reynolds wins Newcastle finale
Scott McLaughlin has won the 2018 Supercars Championship drivers’ title, after finishing second in the final round of the season in Newcastle, crossing the line in his DJR Team Penske Ford Falcon behind the Erebus Motorsport Holden of David Reynolds.
Reynolds had caused an upset in qualifying by snagging pole in the one-lap shootout ahead of both McLaughlin and his title rival Shane van Gisbergen in the Triple Eight Holden Commodore.
Reynolds held firm at the start, while McLaughlin applied early pressure in the outgoing Ford Falcon FG X.
The first and only safety car of the race was called on lap 20, when the title rivals two team-mates, Jamie Whincup and Fabian Coulthard, came together, with Coulthard’s Ford spun into the wall and taking rear end damage.
Most of the field took to the pit lane as the incident was perfectly timed for the teams to complete a two-stop strategy, with McLaughlin’s DJR squad getting him out ahead of Reynolds’ Holden.
Van Gisbergen was now in fifth, and seemed to lack the pace to move further forward, running behind team-mate Whincup and the Walkinshaw Holden of James Courtney.
The New Zealander looked at risk later in the race, as the front wheel cowlings popped out of his car and it looked like he may have to pit for repairs, but the team left him out and the officials chose not to hand out a mechanical black flag, though he dropped some way behind the leading trio.
With the finish and championship in sight, McLaughlin was caught in the closing stages by Reynolds, who looked hungry for the win. Rather that fight it out and risk both contact and the title, McLaughlin let Reynolds past with four laps to go and settled for second.
Reynolds took the win, with McLaughlin securing his first championship with second, the first for DJR since James Courtney won the title in 2010, and the last for the Ford Falcon in the Supercars Championship, which will be replaced by the Ford Mustang next year.
Outgoing champion Jamie Whincup completed the podium, with van Gisbergen crossing the line fourth, and dropping the to 71 points behind McLaughlin in the standings.
The 2019 season gets underway at the Adelaide street circuit on March 2nd-3rd 2019.