Craig Lowndes has closed the gap on the championship lead after winning the final crash-marred race of the SKYCITY Triple Crown in Darwin.
Lowndes fended off an unrelenting charge from race 18 winner Mark Winterbottom to take his third win of the season by just 0.12s. They were joined on the podium by pole-sitter David Reynolds.
The race had earlier been reduced to 24 laps after a first-lap pile up involving twelve cars at the exit of Turn 1 brought out the red flag. Triggered by a three way 190km/h battle between Jason Bright and Tim Slade with McLaughlin sandwiched in the middle, Slade was sent into the barrier, causing a huge pile-up behind. Slade, David Wall, Lee Holdsworth, James Moffat, Alexandre Prémat and Dean Fiore all took considerable hits and were unable to continue, with Fiore flung up on two wheels and lucky not to roll over upon contact with the tyre wall.
The race restarted 15 minutes later, with much of the field taking to the pits over the following two laps. Lowndes made his stop count jumping race leader Reynolds after the Bottle-O Racing FPR made his stop two laps later, a crucial move as the race was then cut short again after James Courtney ground to a halt with electrical issues on the run up to the hairpin required a safety car period to salvage the stricken Commodore. Shortly afterwards, Whincup was forced to serve a drive-through penalty for spinning rear wheels during his pitstop which left the Championship leader down in 19th at the finish, with just Todd Kelly behind.
Contact with Chaz Mostert left Kelly on the grass at the final corner after the pair rubbed panels over the closing laps.
Another solid weekend saw Jonathon Webb take fourth place with Garth Tander, Shane van Gisbergen, Will Davison, Scott McLaughlin, Maro Engel and Jason Bright rounding out the top 10.