Kiwi Scott McLaughlin has extended his Supercars championship lead to 143 points after winning Saturday's sprint race at Hidden Valley Raceway near Darwin.
The 25-year-old made a solid start from second place but settled in behind pole-sitter David Reynolds as the race got through the opening laps. McLaughlin opted to pit early and took advantage of the under-cut to get in front of those on the mid-race stop strategy.
Red Bull Racing Holden driver Shane van Gisbergen made the latter strategy work well by using fresher tyres to jump ahead of Rick Kelly, Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes while he also under-cut Reynolds by a couple of laps.
He whittled away McLaughlin's lead over the last 20 laps of the race but had no tyres to play with by the time he caught the Shell V Power Ford and had to settle for second. He remains second in the standings as a result.
Reynolds took third in the Erebus Holden while championship contenders Craig Lowndes (seventh) and Jamie Whincup (eighth) dropped points to the two Kiwis.
It was the sixth race win of the season for McLaughlin and the 22nd of his career but one he had to work for in the extreme Northern Territory heat and with a flying Kiwi rival breathing down his neck at the end.
"I am glad I don't wear one of those heart-rate sensors for TV anymore because I would have blew the bloody thing off the Richter scale," McLaughlin said post-race.
"We took a bit of a punt there because the other strategy was probably a bit faster but [the Shell V Power team] put a lot of faith in me to bring it home and thankfully I did.
"We all know Shane is a hard-charger and I respect him like no other. It was certainly great for me to hold him off.
"I wanted that win bad to come back from the break and all that hard work behind the scenes."
Van Gisbergen was pleased to continue his impressive race pace. The 2016 series champion has made a habit of charging through the field to secure a good result this season but is still searching for one-lap pace to really mount a consistent challenge to McLaughlin.
"We just need to sort the qualifying out," he said. "Really cool race but I just wish we could start up there a bit more.
"Congrats to those guys – Scotty was driving awesome – good lines at the end and I couldn't get through there at the end."
Other New Zealanders in the race had less success. Fabian Coulthard was a frustrating 15th, Andre Heimgartner was 16th in his Nissan after an impressive top 10 qualifying performance and Richie Stanaway finished 23rd.
A 200km-long test awaits drivers on Sunday.
Scott McLaughlin 1637
Shane van Gisbergen -143
David Reynolds -339
Craig Lowndes -353
Scott Pye -403
Jamie Whincup -424
Fabian Coulthard - 498