As the inaugural Newcastle 500 will be tough to predict who will be the ones to watch and the favourite for the victories, apexnews.co.nz had to dig through a lot of data to give you the expert picks.
The six-time series champion is known to be strong on new tracks, and has a strong 3.8 average finish on street circuits in 2017. He has momentum on his side, coming off his race victory at Pukekohe and coming into the finale as the series leader. Whincup will be hard to beat.
McLaughlin has had a breakthrough season at his new team, DJR Team Penske. He and race engineer Ludo Lacroix has been very strong during qualifying this season, earning a record-breaking 14 pole positions. Qualifying will be important this weekend and will need to master their qualifying setup to snag both pole positions as he will need to beat Whincup for his championship hopes.
Mostert has been excellent on street circuits this season with an average finish of 4.8 on street circuits, and will be one of the race winning favourites at Newcastle after being competitive at Adelaide and Townsville this year plus winning on the street of the Gold Coast. Watch the Supercheap Auto Falcon be the strongest out of the Prodrive stable.
Shane van Gisbergen
Van Gisbergen could well be the favourite for the Saturday win as he has the best average finish of 3.2 on street circuits and cause he will be trying to support Whincup title challenge on Sunday. He was super strong in Adelaide which the first sector of Adelaide mimics the final sector of the Newcastle which could give him a slight advantage.
Ones to watch:
Courtney is a well-known street fighter and the Walkinshaw Holdens are known to be strong on street circuits. As the Boost Mobile Holden wasn’t strong all year, is why he didn’t make it in our race favourites as there is some doubt on how competitive he will be this weekend in Newcastle. The Walkinshaw contracted driver was awful at Townsville but was top five material in Adelaide.
Waters has been the standout performer this season, getting his first solo podium last time out at Pukekohe will get the young Prodrive racer geared up for a strong Newcastle outing. Watch this Monster Energy Ford to be not far off teammate Mostert.
Winterbottom wasn’t too bad at the last street circuit, Gold Coast, and has made out list of ones to watch at Newcastle. After claiming that he is finally feeling comfortable in the Bottle-O Ford, it is likely he could snag a podium on either day to cap off a tough year for the former champion.
Don’t laugh too hard but Russell could be a little smoky pick for a checky top 10 or 15 finish in at LD Motorsport Holden. Running in the Plus Fitness-backed Holden, the Newcastle-local driver knows these streets pretty well and could help him at the start of the weekend. He won’t be fast but if he stays out of trouble he could be on for a strong result.
Photos: Daniel Kalisz