Scott McLaughlin may have already clinched the 2019 drivers’ championship, but the teams’ championship is well and truly still up for grabs heading to the Newcastle season finale this weekend.
McLaughlin’s DJR Team Penske squad is eyeing a driver-team title double, which hasn’t been achieved since Shane van Gisbergen and the Red Bull Holden Racing Team completed the feat in 2016.
The factory Holden squad managed to snatch away the teams’ crown from DJRTP last year as McLaughlin won his maiden drivers’ title, while the Ford squad sealed the 2017 teams’ championship despite Jamie Whincup winning his seventh crown in dramatic fashion.
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Critically, the team which finishes the season with the most points will occupy the front of the lane for the following season, which removes the threat of congestion in the guts of the lane.
Triple Eight has made the front of the lane their home, having claimed nine of the last 11 teams’ championships since 2008. Only in 2009 and 2017 did the Holden powerhouse team fail to take home the title.
However, the story in 2019 has been about how DJRTP extended the lead they took from RBHRT after the Holden outfit left the season-opener in Adelaide with a 45-point lead.
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As McLaughlin continued his razing run to the title, the Ford team hit their stride and extended their lead event on event. It hit a season-high 877 points following the eighth round in Townsville, but dropped to 423 points post-Bathurst after DJRTP was smacked with a record $250,000 fine and 300-point deduction over the team orders scandal.
McLaughlin’s non-start on the Sunday on the Gold Coast, coupled with a RBHRT one-two, saw the gap fall to 132 points. Heading to Newcastle, the gap is just 116 points with 576 points on offer this weekend.
Despite the Whincup/Craig Lowndes Sandown win, the gap would have been much smaller had the Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander entry not slumped to 17th following a late-race suspension failure.
Whincup has been part of all nine of Triple Eight’s teams’ title wins, with the misses in 2009 and 2017 still seeing the team finish second in the standings. After a quiet first half of the season, Whincup knows the ‘other’ title is there for the taking.
“We were absolutely nowhere mid-season, we were well behind,” seven-time champion Whincup said.
“As the year’s gone on, we’ve clawed our way back and we’ve given ourselves an opportunity this weekend to have a real go.
“116 points behind we are at the moment,  points up for grabs over the weekend, so we’ll be doing everything we can and we’ll be working together to try and grab that teams’ championship.”
2016 series champion van Gisbergen acknowledged the team’s push to dominate the season of endurance, and cited the teams’ title as RBHRT’s sole focus on the streets of Newcastle.
“The first half of the year was very tough for us,” van Gisbergen said.
“The PIRTEK Enduro Cup was a real focus for the team, and we got that, and now it’s the teams’ championship.
“Hopefully we can work together, that’s our full focus to get maximum points across both cars and try overtake them.”