Scott McLaughlin converts Supercars pole position into race win at Ipswich SuperSprint

The biggest cheer may have been for someone else but Ford's Scott McLaughlin had no complaints after extending his Supercars series lead with a dominant Ipswich SuperSprint opening win.

McLaughlin should have been the toast of Queensland Raceway on Saturday.

The flying Kiwi claimed his ninth pole position of the year before dominating the 39-lap opener, taking line honours more than four seconds ahead of nearest title threat, Holden's Shane van Gisbergen.

McLaughlin claimed his seventh win of the year and 23rd of his career.

And he extended his series lead from 131 to 143 points over van Gisbergen ahead of Sunday's 65-lap Ipswich finale.

Yet the clear crowd favourite was third placegetter Craig Lowndes.

The Queensland Raceway faithful erupted when the 44-year-old stepped up to the podium and was later mobbed as he continued his Supercars swan song.

Lowndes' popularity has gone to another level after announcing a fortnight ago that he would retire from full-time racing at season's end.

The Holden great gave them plenty to cheer about on Saturday, fighting his way to third after starting at 10th, adding to his remarkable Ipswich record.

It was Lowndes' 23rd podium finish - including 12 wins - in 45 races at the track.

Lowndes, who arrived at Ipswich fifth in the standings, hoped the support helped him have a title tilt in his last hurrah.

"Hopefully the crowds keep coming out and supporting the category as a whole," Lowndes beamed.

"I am more relaxed now (since retirement call). I will push hard for the rest of the season - a top three finish would be great."

Catching McLaughlin will be easier said than done after the Kiwi edged away from van Gisbergen, turning the tables on the Red Bull Racing driver after his Ford had no answer at the last round in Townsville.

"I can't do any more than I have. We won the race, I extended the (series) gap (on van Gisbergen)," McLaughlin said.

"We feel like we are bouncing back."

Van Gisbergen kept McLaughlin honest when he jumped from eighth to third in the first lap of Saturday's 120km opener.

He was second by the 14th lap but could not reel in his fellow Kiwi.

Holden's seven-time series champion Jamie Whincup was just pipped of a podium finish by Lowndes but his fourth placing moves him ahead of David Reynolds into third on the drivers' standings.

Ford's Chaz Mostert qualified second fastest but dropped to fifth after copping a three-place grid penalty for impeding van Gisbergen during practice.

He finished sixth.

Whincup tangled with Mostert on lap three of Saturday's race but escaped sanction.

Whincup wasn't so fortunate in practice, copping a $1000 fine for an incorrect pit lane exit.

Holden's James Courtney - who finished eighth - set a new race lap record of one minute, 09.65 seconds, eclipsing his 2017 mark by 0.07 of a second.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22:  race winner Scott McLaughlin driver of the #17 Shell V-Power Racing Team Ford Falcon FGX celebrates on the podium during race 1 for the Supercars Australian Grand Prix round at Albert Park on March 22, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)
Scott McLaughlin on the podium at the Australian GP. Source: Getty


Scott McLaughlin continues Supercars dominance, grabs pole at Ipswich SuperSprint

Saving his best for last, Supercars series leader Scott McLaughlin has claimed yet another pole position by topping qualifying for the Ipswich SuperSprint opening race at Queensland Raceway.

McLaughlin left it until the dying moments of the 15-minute session to clock a scorching one minute, 08.50 second lap and pip fellow Ford gun Chaz Mostert by 0.17 of a second.

It was the ninth pole of the year for McLaughlin ahead of the season's 19th race.

McLaughlin's teammate Fabian Coulthard was third quickest to complete a Ford 1-2-3.

Reigning Bathurst champion David Reynolds was the leading Holden driver in fourth, before the opening 39-lap race starting at 1615 AEST.

Mostert faces a nervous wait after stewards confirmed the Ford driver was under investigation for impeding Holden's Shane van Gisbergen during qualifying.

McLaughlin is aiming to extend his series lead at his home track this weekend after arriving at Ipswich with just a 131-point buffer over van Gisbergen, who qualified eighth fastest.

The early signs are good as McLaughlin looks to overcome a disappointing last round in Townsville.

"It sounds crazy but it felt like one of my best laps of the year," McLaughlin said of his qualifying effort.

"That one felt really good. We weren't amazing at practice ... but the car just made a massive leap forward then.

"It was about doing the right lap and executing it as best I can but I felt that was all that was left in it."

Today's practice pace-setter, seven-time series champ Jamie Whincup, qualified sixth fastest.

Whincup had hoped to make his presence felt in Ipswich after resurrecting his 2018 title hopes with a win and podium at the last Townsville round.

Whincup is fourth in the standings, just 403 points behind leader McLaughlin.

Supercars great Craig Lowndes had to be content with 10th in qualifying as he begins his swansong after announcing a fortnight ago he would retire from full- time racing at season's end.

The top 10 in qualifying were separated by just half a second.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22:  race winner Scott McLaughlin driver of the #17 Shell V-Power Racing Team Ford Falcon FGX celebrates on the podium during race 1 for the Supercars Australian Grand Prix round at Albert Park on March 22, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)
Scott McLaughlin on the podium at the Australian GP. Source: Getty



Supercars team denies claims they're forcing legend Craig Lowndes to retire

Claims that Craig Lowndes has been "pushed" into Supercars retirement have been dismissed by his Holden team boss ahead of this weekend's Ipswich round.

Three-time touring car champion Lowndes will be sentimental favourite at his 22nd and final Ipswich event after dropping the bombshell two weeks ago that this season would be his last as a full-time driver.

Lowndes has a record 12 wins at Ipswich and will be looking for lucky No.13 this weekend at the SuperSprint as he begins his final curtain call.

However, Lowndes' abrupt announcement in Townsville sparked rumours the 44-year- old was pressured into retirement by his team Red Bull Racing.

Fellow Supercars driver David Reynolds even put it on record, telling Fox Motorsport podcast that six-time Bathurst 1000 winner Lowndes was pushed by RBR.

"It's so clear he is being half-pushed out, or pushed out entirely," reigning Bathurst champ Reynolds said.

But RBR boss Roland Dane fired up over the suggestion before practice for the Ipswich SuperSprint began on Friday.

"To be honest, I couldn't care less what everyone else thinks about it," he told Fox Sports.

"Craig and I know the decision that he made, that I completely agree with and that I think was the right decision to make.

"He knows the facts. I know the facts.

"The only thing that really matters to me is ensuring that Craig is able to step out with his head held high."

Lowndes will switch to a co-driver enduro role next Supercars season while expected to juggle duties as a TV commentator and dabbling in the GT category with a rumoured debut at the famous Le Mans 24 Hour race in 2019.

Dane said they had not worked out whether they would even replace Lowndes and run a third car next year.

Supercars stars Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen drive the other RBR entries.

"Again, I see all the keyboard warriors making their own minds up about what we are or aren't doing," Dane said.

"I can promise you that we have not made a decision yet on whether we'll run two, three or four cars next year."

Lowndes - fifth in the championship standings - last tasted victory at Ipswich in 2016.

He just missed the podium at the last round in Townsville, finishing fourth in both races.

Lowndes and Garth Tander are the only drivers to have raced at all 21 previous Ipswich rounds.

Ford's Scott McLaughlin leads the championship with 2,033 points, just 131 ahead of van Gisbergen with Reynolds third.

Craig Lowndes