Twelve months after the lowest point of his Supercars career, Ford’s Scott McLaughlin was again reduced to tears at Newcastle on Sunday.
But this time they were tears of joy after claiming an emotional maiden title.
The 25-year-old New Zealander finally put to rest his 2017 last-round heartbreak by sealing the championship with a second placing behind Holden’s David Reynolds in the 95-lap season finale in Newcastle.
His nearest rival Holden’s Shane van Gisbergen, finished fourth ensuring McLaughlin won the title by 71 points.
— Supercars (@supercars) November 25, 2018
McLaughlin only needed a top-six finish to hold out his fellow Kiwi and seal the 2018 crown.
But McLaughlin knew only too well it was easier said than done on Newcastle’s tough 2.6-kilometre street circuit.
At last year’s season finish in Newcastle, McLaughlin only needed a top-11 finish to secure the title but suffered three penalties as Jamie Whincup came from the clouds to win a record seventh crown.
“We will call it redemption. It was a hell of a battle,” an emotional McLaughlin said before stopping to compose himself.
“Holy smokes, I just can’t believe it.”
His triumph marks the seventh time a Kiwi has won the title. It also provides a fitting farewell for the iconic Falcon, with Ford teams switching to Mustangs next season.
But Supercars great Craig Lowndes’ send-off didn’t go to plan.
In the final event of his 22-year full-time career, the 44-year-old finished 11th to place fourth in the championship.
Lowndes will return next year as a co-driver in the three endurance rounds.
But the day was all about McLaughlin, who also sealed the first championship for his Ford outfit DJR Team Penske, led by US motorsport giant Roger Penske, who was trackside.
Holden’s Reynolds started Sunday’s race on pole but McLaughlin nabbed the lead after the pit-lane frenzy that followed a safety car prompted by Whincup making contact with Ford’s Fabian Coulthard on the final corner of lap 20.
McLaughlin let a fast-finishing Reynolds pass in the final 10 laps.
Van Gisbergen was behind the eight ball from the outset. The 2016 champion suffered a blow ahead of the final race when stripped of his dramatic Saturday win, relegated to fifth after a stewards investigation.
The penalty for a pit-lane refuelling breach announced on Sunday morning extended McLaughlin’s series lead from just two points to 53 before the last race.
“We did everything we could, but he is a worthy champion. I enjoyed the fight,” van Gisbergen said.