McLaughlin looks primed for championship after Darwin win
SCOTT McLaughlin's sixth win of the Supercars season has cemented him as the man to beat in this year's championship.
The championship leader was unable to convert two poles into wins last round at Winton but starting second on the grid on Saturday at Darwin's Hidden Valley Raceway suited the Ford ace better.
McLaughlin edged out Red Bull Holden rival Shane van Gisbergen by just half a second for his 22nd career win.
Erebus Motorsport's David Reynolds blitzed qualifying in hot conditions at the Northern Territory circuit to take pole but could manage only third behind the series leaders.
McLaughlin pitted early in the 42-lap affair and it paid off as Reynolds waited until halfway through the race.
But Reynolds believed after the race that holding off on pitting didn't have a major bearing on the result.
"Arguably, we could've come in earlier or later. I don't think it really matters," Reynolds said.
"Scott probably had the right strategy and he did it early and dealt with it."
Holdens rounded out the top five, with Scott Pye and veteran Garth Tander impressing.
It was McLaughlin's second win at the Darwin circuit, backing up last year's race-two triumph.
The New Zealand ace has extended his championship lead to 143 points over van Gisbergen. Reynolds has overtaken Craig Lowndes to be third overall.
McLaughlin said: "I'm glad I didn't have one of those heart rate sensors on TV. I would've blown the bloody thing up!
"We all know Shane's a hard charger and I respect him like no other and it's certainly great for me to hold him off and great for the team.
"I really wanted that win after coming back from the break and all the hard work behind the scenes."
McLaughlin will be eager to become the first man to take out the elusive Triple Crown, which has been untouched since being introduced for the Darwin round in 2006.
He will have to win the top-10 qualifying shootout and Sunday's second 70-lap race to add it to his burgeoning trophy cabinet.
DARWIN TRIPLE CROWN RACE ONE
1. Scott McLaughlin (Shell V-Power) 48:20.3119; 2. Shane van Gisbergen (Red Bull Holden) 48:20.7364; 3. David Reynolds (Erebus) 48:21.5761; 4. Scott Pye (Mobil 1 Boost) 48:27.8373; 5. Garth Tander (Wilson Security) 48:30.0882.
1. Scott McLaughlin 1637 pts, 2. Shane van Gisbergen 1494, 3. David Reynolds 1298, 4. Craig Lowndes 1284, 5. Scott Pye 1234