Watch: Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin sweep Michigan showdown
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Kiwis Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin have locked out the wins for the penultimate round of the BP Supercars All Stars Eseries at Michigan International Speedway.
The Red Bull racer won the opening two races, while a strategic error left the door open for McLaughlin to win the final race. Still, van Gisbergen leads the series relativley comfortably with one round left to go. McLaughlin's overall round victory means that the evening's winnings will be donated to the defending champion's chosen charity; Camp Quality.
There were a raft of wildcard racers present, including third-generation driver Aaron Seton, Super2 driver Jordan Boys, former full-time driver Michael Caruso, and Kiwi drifter 'Mad Mike' Whiddett.
The starting grid for the 28-lap opener was decided by a pair of 15-lap duel qualifying races; the first headed by the likes of van Gisbergen, McLaughlin, and Lee Holdsworth, with the second led by Anton De Pasquale, Chaz Mostert, and Cameron Waters. When the dust settled it was the familiar sight of van Gisbergen and De Pasquale on the front row, ahead of McLaughlin and an impressive Macauley Jones, with Todd Hazelwood and Chaz Mostert on row three.
McLaughlin led De Pasquale and van Gisbergen at the end of lap one, as a huge end-of-lap shunt eliminated Hazelwood, Jake Kostecki, and Mostert from the lead pack. Van Gisbergen's night took a literal hit when Jones lost control underneath him on lap five, causing a huge multi-car crash that thinned the back.
This meant that the new third-place runner was Holdsworth, leading wildcard Boys, Bryce Fullwood, Fabian Coulthard, Will Davison, and Andre Heimgartner. Even with the crash, van Gisbergen was still in the hunt in 11th. And he continued to slowly work his way through the pack one car at a time until joining the lead seven-car gaggle once again with 10 laps to go.
The bulk of the pit stops from the leaders took place on lap 21. By the time the stop cycle was complete, McLaughlin still led De Pasquale, with Coulthard, Fullwood, Heimgartner, van Gisbergen, and Holdsworth in tow. De Pasquale's attack on McLaughlin was relentless, and with each attack van Gisbergen creeped closer. By the final lap, the trio were nose-to-tail.
De Pasquale took the lead at the start of the lap, but it all came down to turns three and four. McLaughlin persevered to run alongside De Pasquale on the back straight, and van Gisbergen inserted himself into the equation by making a monster dive. He was able to hold onto the car on corner exit, and McLaughlin was unable to steal back the lead (coughing for fuel on the finish line). De Pasquale took third, ahead of Holdsworth, Boys, Coulthard, Fullwood, Jack Le Brocq, Seton, and Garry Jacobson.
For the reverse-grid race two, Rick Kelly led Jamie Whincup, Caruso, Chris Pither, James Courtney, Jones, and Zane Goddard. Unlike most other reverse-grid races, things started cleanly; Kelly leading until lap three when Whincup and David Reynolds stole the lead. Kelly then crashed with guast Castrol Mustang teammate Christian Lundgaard, further thinning the top 10.
A lead pack emerged by lap six; Reynolds, Whincup, Caruso, Davison, Waters, and Heimgartner. They were soon joined by teammates Coulthard and McLaughlin. Caruso and Waters were first to flinch, taking each other out. McLaughlin and van Gisbergen were then both impeded by a crash involving the recovering Kelly and Will Davison. A safety car on lap 12 pressed pause on the chaos; Waters somehow back in the lead.
Come race restart Heimgartner and Fullwood led over van Gisbergen, Whincup, and Coulthard. De Pasquale was up the pointy end, too, only to be ejected from the train on the back straight and into the inside wall at speed. Heimgartner and Whincup were also erased from the debate on lap 17 when they crashed on the back straight.
With three laps to go, van Gisbergen's lead rival was Fullwood (Reynolds, McLaughlin, and Le Brocq following closely), but time-certainty robbed the field of a potential grandstand finish. Van Gisbergen won again over Fullwood, McLaughlin, Reynolds, Coulthard, Le Brocq, Kostecki, Mostert, Jones and Alex Davison in 10th.
For the extended 45-lap finale van Gisbergen was on pole over McLaughlin, Fullwood, Coulthard, Le Brocq, and Holdsworth. A crash involving Reynolds created an eight-car breakaway at the front early, van Gisbergen and Fullwood leading. Mostert caught them both by lap five, sneaking by on lap six with De Pasquale following as well. But it was a seesawing battle with the lead changing all the time.
Van Gisbergen was one of the first leaders to stop, doing so on lap 16. Most of the leaders elected to have a much longer run, indicating a commitment to a one-stop strategy. By lap 25, the leading breakaway had still not stopped; De Pasquale leading Fullwood, McLaughlin, Le Brocq, and Reynolds among them. By lap 28 the field had finally purified; van Gisbergen leading Mostert, Scott Pye, Jacobson, McLaughlin, and De Pasquale. A penalty for speeding in pit-lane dropped Fullwood from the battle.
Van Gisbergen and Pye's two-stop strategy looked to have been a failure, with both drivers having a mammoth mountain to climb in the race to the flag versus the single-stopping pack. And, no safety car would come to aid their cause. It meant McLaughlin was able to cruise home to a clear-cut win over Le Brocq, Boys, Mostert, Hazelwood, Waters, De Pasquale, Jones, Heimgartner, and Kelly in 10th. Points leaders Van Gisbergen ended up 14th.
Mostert and De Pasquale had put together a solid effort in the push to catch and challenge McLaughlin in the closing laps, only for a clash on the back straight to send the Erebus Motorsport driver into a spin. The incident resulted in a penalty for Mostert, dropping him down the order and handing the two final spots on the podium to Le Brocq and Boys.
The series returns to Australia for next Wednesday's finale, which is slated to take place at Mount Panorama and Oran Park.