Scott McLaughlin clinched his second Supercars Championship last time out at the 2019 Sandown 500, with McLaughlin and his co-driver Alexandre Prémat finished in a lowly ninth, but the drama since the 2019 Bathurst 1000 victory for Car No.17, and for McLaughlin, Prémat, and DJR Team Penske has continued, with of course the penalty surrounding Car No.12 at Bathurst of Fabian Coulthard, who was in the car at the time, and Tony D’Alberto for holding up the field after the safety car was deployed on Lap 135 of the Bathurst 1000, allowing Jamie Whincup and Scott McLaughlin to escape up the road to have essentially a free pit-stop, and was the catalyst for Car No.17 to win the 2019 Bathurst 1000.
Then, we had the revelation from CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sport) and Supercars at Sandown in regards to the qualifying engine of Car No.17 that “the valve lift in a number of cylinders was found to have exceeded the maximum permitted valve lift prescribed”, and then the subsequent penalty for Car No.17 to be disqualified from qualifying at the 2019 Bathurst 1000, and therefore being stripped of their pole position at Bathurst, DJR Team Penske being fined $30,000, and Car No.17 being forced to start the Sandown 500 from the back of the grid, but crucially were able to keep their victory in the 2019 Bathurst 1000.
Now, the way that CAMS, which will become Motorsport Australia in 2020, and Supercars stewards decided to punish Car No.17 was an admission, without actually saying it, is that they had made a mistake in not punishing Car No.17 and DJR Team Penske earlier, as in at the Bathurst 1000, and it is not the first mistake CAMS and Supercars have made in 2019, and both of them are going to have to have a deep review of their technical and sporting operations in the off-season heading into 2020.
However, despite all the conjecture and debate about the credibility and validity of the success of Scott McLaughlin, DJR Team Penske, and the Ford Mustang, the one thing is for sure is that McLaughlin is a deserving two-time Supercars champion, and it will be celebrated at the 2019 Newcastle 500, the 15th and final round of the 2019 Supercars Championship.
McLaughlin (3614 points) leads the championship by an unassailable 550 points over Shane Van Gisbergen (3064 points) from Triple Eight Race Engineering, who is in a three-way battle for second in the championship with his teammate Jamie Whincup (2968 points), and McLaughlin’s teammate in Fabian Coulthard (2791 points) heading into Newcastle.
Behind the Top Four, Chaz Mostert (2705 points) is fifth in the standings for Tickford Racing, and is still a chance of finishing third in the championship, while David Reynolds (2517 points) will finish outside of the Top Three in the final standings for Erebus Motorsport regardless of what happens on the streets of Newcastle.
Then, there is a huge five-way fight for what will be likely seventh in the championship between Tickford Racing’s Cameron Waters (2387 points) and two of his teammates in Will Davison (2369 points) and Lee Holdsworth (2323 points), as well as Nick Percat from Brad Jones Racing and James Courtney from Walkinshaw Andretti United, the team that he will be leaving after the Newcastle 500 to join the new Sydney team in 2020.
Looking at the Teams’ Championship, there is 116 points separating DJR Team Penske (6101 points) and Triple Eight Race Engineering (5985 points) with the battle being reinvigorated after the 300 point penalty handed out to DJR Team Penske after the actions of the team in telling Fabian Coulthard to hold up the field at Bathurst.
In regards to the Newcastle Street Circuit, it is important to note that the track has been lengthened by 12 metres to 2.641 kilometres, with the Turn 11 hairpin being revised, with the approach into Turn 11 being lengthened by 11.5 metres.
So, who will win the 2019 Newcastle 500?
I think all the distractions that have happened over the last few weeks, plus the crash on the Gold Coast have really affected Scott McLaughlin, but with the distractions largely out of the way, I think McLaughlin will dominate the Newcastle 500, winning both races to finish his largely incredible season in style!