2019 Newcastle 500 – Preview

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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!

 

2018 Newcastle 500 – Preview

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Photo of the Newcastle Street Circuit precinct a few weeks before the event.

For the second time in as many years, the Supercars Championship is set for a thrilling conclusion in Newcastle, and this time, it will be a battle between two Kiwi drivers in Scott McLaughlin from DJR Team Penske, and Shane Van Gisbergen from Triple Eight Race Engineering as the 2018 Supercars Championship heads to the Newcastle Street Circuit for the 16th and final round of the season, the Newcastle 500.

Just 14 points separate McLaughlin (3656 points) and Van Gisbergen (3642 points) with both having stellar seasons, but within those stellar seasons, they have both had down moments.

McLaughlin has claimed eight wins and 19 podiums overall in 29 races, including four-straight wins from Race 9 to Race 12 of the season (Phillip Island and Barbagallo), and 13 podiums in 14 races, including a streak of eight-straight podiums, but before winning Race 29 at Pukekohe in New Zealand, McLaughlin had gone nine completed races without a race victory.

Conversely, Van Gisbergen started off the season superbly by winning the opening two races of the season in Adelaide, before going 15 races without win. After this barren run though, Van Gisbergen won four of the next five races from Race 18 to 22 of the championship (Townsville, Ipswich, Sydney Motorsport Park, and The Bend Motorsport Park), , and of course won Race 28 of the championship at Pukekohe in New Zealand to give us a titanic fight in Newcastle. Overall, Van Gisbergen has had seven wins and 17 podiums in 29 races coming into Newcastle.

During the season, McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen have finished first and second (in either order) in the same race five times in 2018, and with the championship battle set to be a “winner takes all” scenario, things are certain to heat up!

Looking at the Newcastle Street Circuit on paper, it is a circuit that should suit Triple Eight Race Engineering and the Holden ZB Commodore, given the lack of long, fast corners, and the point and squirt nature of the circuit.

However, despite street circuits typically lacking grip compared to your normal permanent venue, I expect the Newcastle Street Circuit to provide plenty of grip, which should suit DJR Team Penske and their Ford FG X Falcon beautifully, but on a circuit that I consider “The Monaco of the South”, anything can happen.

What also should be considered within the battle for the championship is the battle for third in the standings between Jamie Whincup (3175 points), Craig Lowndes (3117 points), and David Reynolds (2918 points), three drivers in strong cars who are capable of deciding who wins the championship.

Of course both Whincup and Lowndes are both teammates of Van Gisbergen, and will be looking to do what they can to help their Kiwi teammate claim his second championship. However, it will be an emotional weekend for Lowndes as he competes in what will be his final full-time Supercars Championship event, and the three-time Supercars champion will be looking to do what he can to beat seven-time Supercars champion Whincup into third in the championship, and maybe claim one last victory as a full-time driver.

Reynolds is the interesting one though, 257 points behind third-place Whincup and unlikely to get third, and 249 points ahead of sixth-place Chaz Mostert (2669 points) and unlikely to be surpassed for fifth in the championship, and the highest-ranked driver in the standings not associated with either Triple Eight Race Engineering or DJR Team Penske, so he is the most likely driver, along with Mostert that you think could sway the outcome of the championship one way or another.

So, what are the championship permutations?

For Saturday, only Scott McLaughlin can claim the championship over Shane Van Gisbergen with one race remaining:

  1. If McLaughlin finishes 1st or 2nd, and Van Gisbergen retires from the race.

I will update the championship permutations before Race 31 of the championship on Sunday morning should the battle continue through to Sunday.

So, who will win both races at the Newcastle 500, and who will claim the 2018 Supercars Championship?

I think if qualifying goes to the form book, I think Saturday’s race will be a largely normal race, and I think Shane Van Gisbergen will win Race 30 of the season, with Scott McLaughlin finishing second or third.

However, I think Sunday’s race, regardless of whether qualifying and the Top 10 Shootout goes to form or not, will be chaotic, and my gut feeling tells me something is going to happen between McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen that is going to decide the championship, and/or have major repercussions going forward.

However, regardless of what happens, I cannot wait to see what unfolds!

 

After Shane Van Gisbergen was given a post-race 25-second time penalty for a Breach of Rule D25.6.3.2. after Race 30 of the championship, dropping him from 1st to 5th, thus giving Scott McLaughlin his ninth race victory of the season, it means the championship picture has changed going into the final race of the season, with McLaughlin now having a 53-point lead in the standings over Van Gisbergen.

So, McLaughlin can win his first championship:

1. If McLaughlin finishes ahead of Van Gisbergen.

2. If Van Gisbergen wins the race, McLaughlin must finish 6th or higher.

3. If Van Gisbergen finishes 2nd, McLaughlin must finish 8th or higher.

4. If Van Gisbergen finishes 3rd, McLaughlin must finish 10th or higher.

5. If Van Gisbergen finishes 4th, McLaughlin must finish 12th or higher.

6. If Van Gisbergen finishes 5th, McLaughlin must finish 15th or higher.

7. If Van Gisbergen finishes 6th, McLaughlin must finish 18th or higher.

8. If Van Gisbergen finishes 7th, McLaughlin must finish 20th or higher.

9. If Van Gisbergen finishes 8th, McLaughlin must finish 22nd or higher.

10. If Van Gisbergen finishes 9th, McLaughlin must finish 24th or higher.

11. If Van Gisbergen finishes between 10th and 17th, McLaughlin must finish the race (26th or higher).

12. If Van Gisbergen finishes 18th or lower, McLaughlin is the CHAMPION!

 

Van Gisbergen can win his second championship:

1. If Van Gisbergen wins the race, McLaughlin must finish 7th or lower.

2. If Van Gisbergen finishes 2nd, McLaughlin must finish 9th or lower.

3. If Van Gisbergen finishes 3rd, McLaughlin must finish 11th or lower.

4. If Van Gisbergen finishes 4th, McLaughlin must finish 13th or lower.

5. If Van Gisbergen finishes 5th, McLaughlin must finish 16th or lower.

6. If Van Gisbergen finishes 6th, McLaughlin must finish 19th or lower.

7. If Van Gisbergen finishes 7th, McLaughlin must finish 21st or lower.

8. If Van Gisbergen finishes 8th, McLaughlin must finish 23rd or lower.

9. If Van Gisbergen finishes 9th, McLaughlin must finish 25th or lower.

10. If Van Gisbergen finishes between 10th and 17th, McLaughlin must not finish the race/not score points.