V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup overcame upstart leader Tim Slade to win the opening race of the season finale on Sydney’s Homebush street track.
A heavy crash for Whincup’s Triple Eight Holden teammate Craig Lowndes in qualifying caused a red flag that shook the grid up, and Will Davison emerged with a maiden pole for the Erebus Mercedes.
Whincup was one of the few regular frontrunners to get a decent lap in and started second, which he swiftly turned into first with a better start than Davison.
Initial third and fourth place men David Reynolds and Slade were among the many who made their mandatory pit stops early, whereas Whincup was yet to stop when a crash for Mark Winterbottom at Turn 1 on lap nine of 37 brought out the safety car.
Whincup squeezed out just ahead of Reynolds, but behind Slade, causing raised eyebrows from Triple Eight over how hard Slade had pushed before catching the safety car. But Whincup stayed cool, and ramped up the pressure on Slade after a second safety car for a tangle between Todd Kelly and Scott Pye.
With 11 laps to go, Whincup passed Slade into the Turn 9/10 chicane and escaped to take his 13th win of 2014. Although Slade would have to wait for his first win, the Walkinshaw Racing driver stayed clear of Reynolds for second.
Of those disadvantaged in qualifying, Friday practice pacesetter James Courtney flew through from 22nd to fifth before tangling with Scott McLaughlin and dropping back. That meant the most productive charge came from Shane van Gisbergen, who hacked through from 18th to sixth behind McLaughlin and Rick Kelly.
Lowndes moved up from 20th to 13th in his repaired car, while Marcos Ambrose was 20th as he reacclimatized in his first V8 race in nine years.