PUKEKOHE, New Zealand – Jamie Whincup won the race, but the weekend at Pukekohe Park Raceway undoubtedly belonged to Shane van Gisbergen.
The Red Bull Racing Australia driver finished second to teammate Whincup in the finale at Pukekohe, but scored the most points out of all drivers over the four races on the weekend. As a result, van Gisbergen was awarded the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy and became the first Kiwi to win it since its inception in 2013.
For a man who idolized Richards growing up, it was clearly one of the proudest moments of his career. “That’s pretty special to win that trophy, I’m pretty stoked,” said van Gisbergen post-race as he visibly and audibly choked up and held back tears. “To get the J.R. Trophy, you know, everyone loved him. He was such an awesome guy, and to finally win that as a Kiwi, I’m over the moon. I don’t get emotional very often, so it’s pretty special.”
It may well be one of two career-defining moments to come in four weeks for van Gisbergen. He leaves his homeland with a 191-point lead in the championship over Jamie Whincup. Should van Gisbergen finish the Saturday race at the Coates Hire Sydney 500, he will become the first-ever New Zealander to win the series championship in the Supercars era and the first New Zealander to win the series title in the combined Supercars-ATCC history since the legendary Jim Richards was crowned champion in 1991.
Whincup was happy to make amends for his spin with van Gisbergen earlier in the day. “I launched well off the start, and that was the end of that!” he said after claiming his 103rd race win.
Scott McLaughlin finished third for the second time on the weekend in his last race for Wilson Security Racing GRM at Pukekohe. “I had an awesome run and I didn’t quite have enough for these guys, so I was just trying to hold on,” he said.
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship will conclude with the final Coates Hire Sydney 500 ever on the streets of Sydney Olympic Park from Dec. 2-4.
About the Writer
James Pike is a multi-faceted reporter for Race Chaser Online and an analyst on the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
He is the lead correspondent for Race Chaser Online’s coverage of Australian Supercars and also covers regional touring series events in the Carolinas. He is a graduate of the Motorsports Management program at Belmont Abbey College and currently resides in Winston-Salem, N.C.
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