By Gordon Lomas 6:04 PM Sun 5 December, 2010
Source: BigPond Sport
Lee Holdsworth won a dramatic race as James Courtney lifted Dick Johnson Racing to its first Championship title in 15 years in a race choked with drama in the Sydney Telstra 500 this afternoon (Sunday).
Holdsworth was stalking leader Shane Van Gisbergen for the lead in the closing laps of the 74-lap race before the Giz's petrol tank ran dry steaming down the straight into turn nine on the final lap.
Steve Richards waved goodbye to his career at Ford Performance Racing by finishing second, while van Gisbergen had enough momentum to roll across the line in third place.
But it was all about the Championship as James Courtney clinched Dick Johnson Racing's first series title since John Bowe in 1995.
Courtney's crew carefully plotted a race management strategy where he finished 14th, clinching the title by 65 points from Jamie Whincup.
It was not before a heart-stopping pit stop on lap 23 when a right rear wheel nut stuck, forcing the team into a lengthy fumbling service which sent Courtney tumbling down the order.
But it wasn't enough to railroad Courtney's run to the title which stands as one of the great sporting success stories after withstanding the turmoil within his team which had begun to crumble around him in the final few months.
A few months ago team patriarch Dick Johnson's world was crashing around him but he has not only survived, he has come out the other end with a Championship crown in one of the great survival stories of Australian motor racing.
The sad aftermath is that Charlie Schwerkolt, the former part owner who saved the team from oblivion in early 2008 could not enjoy the fruits of the Championship moment he so richly deserved after selling his share in the squad in a bitter end to his involvement in team ownership.
Courtney said: "It's been a pretty crazy time and it hasn't sunk in yet and I can't thank the guys in my team enough.
"I didn't think the year was going to end. There were twists and turns all over the place."
When asked what Dick Johnson said to him when he drove the No 18 Ford back to the pits still smoking from the punishing Courtney celebratory burn-outs, he responded, "Well it was just one word and it started with F. I think he was pretty happy."
Whincup had chased Holdsworth hard in the first half of the race and he soldiered on to claim fifth place, having to rely on Courtney either messing up or having a mechanical problem to clinch an unlikely series victory.
Holdsworth was a deserving race winner after landing on pole on both days over the weekend.
Van Gisbergen had to endure the heartbreak of running out of petrol as Stone Brothers rolled the dice on fuel strategy but the young Kiwi hell-raiser knows his time of breaking through for a maiden V8 Supercar victory is close.
He cramped up waiting for the post race press conference to start, succumbing to dehydration after his cool suit failed during the race.
Race 26 Top 10
Lee Holdsworth Commodore
Shane Van Gisbergen Falcon
Steven Richards Falcon
Steven Johnson Falcon
Jamie Whincup Commodore
Craig Lowndes Commodore
Rick Kelly Commodore
Michael Caruso Commodore
Garth Tander Commodore
Jonathon Webb Falcon
Championship Points Top 10
James Courtney Falcon 3055
Jamie Whincup Commodore 2990
Mark Winterbottom Falcon 2729
Craig Lowndes Commodore 2669
Garth Tander Commodore 2466
Shane Van Gisbergen Falcon 2391
Lee Holdsworth Commodore 2387
Rick Kelly Commodore 2347
Paul Dumbrell Falcon 2232
Steven Johnson Falcon 2006