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Van Gisbergen extends Supercars title lead

NZN 6/11/2016 Ben McKay

Mark Winterbottom and Jamie Whincup claimed the race wins at Pukekohe Park on Sunday but series leader Shane van Gisbergen wore the biggest smile, emerging from the weekend with an iron grasp on his first Supercars title.

The Aucklander lapped up the home crowd affection in claiming the Jason Richards Trophy for best points haul from the New Zealand meet, roaring to a 191-point championship lead with just two races at Homebush to come next month.

The 27-year-old said he fought back tears when he realised he'd won the weekend prize, named after his late countryman.

"It's a pretty special thing to win this trophy. No Kiwi's done it," he said.

"Everyone was his friend, he was such a nice guy ... to get it in front of the home crowd was pretty awesome."

Van Gisbergen needs only to finish 16th in each Sydney race - or fifth in either - to claim the crown, the first for a Kiwi since Jim Richards in a Nissan in 1991.

There was a moment in Auckland when the title race hung in the balance.

Desperately seeking any improvement in his championship deficit, Whincup dive-bombed his teammate around the turn eight hairpin, t-boning van Gisbergen.

Both Red Bulls spun out of control.

Van Gisbergen re-emerged in eighth, steadily climbing through the pack to finish third.

Whincup redressed behind his teammate and was served a drive-through penalty, finishing 25th and ceding another huge chunk of points to his sole title rival.

If the racing was explosive, the meeting of the teammates in pit lane afterwards was anything but.

Whincup's apology for his misstep was meek and van Gisbergen quickly accepted it along with the huge advantage in the title race he gained.

Team boss Roland Dane told Fox Sports he wasn't surprised to see Whincup resort to the most desperate of measures, given the six-time champion was guaranteed second place in the overall standings.

"It was going to happen at some point ... Jamie probably felt he had nothing to lose," he said.

The six-time title winner said he wouldn't lose hope of a seventh championship "until the fat lady sings".

"Absolutely it's going to be hard work," he said, " but I never give up. I'll keep my head down until the last race."

Van Gisbergen is also refusing to count his chickens.

"The gap is quite big but we've still got to go there and get a good result," he said.

In all, the dominant Red Bulls claimed three one-two results - with Whincup claiming two victories - for the weekend.

Winterbottom won Sunday's first race after powering from the second row of the grid past van Gisbergen and Scott Pye.

"I might be old but I do alright off the line," the reigning champion said.

Pye went on to finish second, DJR Team Penske's best result in the series in two years.

Scott McLaughlin claimed third in race two.

The Volvo man's duel with Craig Lowndes for third place in the overall standings will be one of the hottest contests at Homebush.

McLaughlin arrived 76 points in arrears to the 42-year-old but cut the deficit to 21 after besting him in three of the four New Zealand races.

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