Scott McLaughlin on the brink of maiden Supercars crown

Scott McLaughlin driver of the #17 Shell V-Power Racing Team Ford Falcon FGX celebrates at the Newcastle 500. Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Scott McLaughlin has capitalised on Jamie Whincup's heartbreak, with the Ford star poised to claim his first Supercars title after a dramatic race in Newcastle.

Whincup's quest for an unprecedented seventh championship is hanging by a thread after steering damage which has led to a 23rd-place finish.

Starting from fifth on the grid on Saturday and 30 championship points ahead of polesitter McLaughlin, Whincup's Commodore made contract with Michael Caruso's Nissan Altima on the opening lap.

Shortly after that incident, Whincup narrowly avoided a three-car pile up involving Dale Wood, Taz Douglas and Jason Bright which forced the safety car onto the track.

But the halt in proceedings wasn't long enough to save Whincup. The Triple Eight Racing star later re-joined the fray more than 13 laps off the pace.

For McLaughlin, it is the 15th time this season he has stood on the podium.

The 24-year-old passed Bathurst 1000 winner David Reynolds on the 72nd lap to set up his eighth victory of the year.

It puts him 78 points in front of Whincup in overall standings ahead of Sunday's season finale.

On a sterling day for DJR Team Penske, Fabian Coulthard finished second behind stablemate McLaughlin to all but clinch the teams' championship with owner Roger Penske in the garage.

"There's a long way to go, but yes! That was awesome - I'm so pumped," McLaughlin said.

"To get one-two for Shell V-Power Racing is as good as it gets."

Reynolds was forced into a wall when Whincup's teammate Shane van Gisbergen passed him with 13 laps remaining, with stewards handing the 2016 champion a 15-second penalty over the incident.

Holden's Tim Slade finished third to grab his second podium for the season.

After red flags had halted the race three times, time was eventually called after 91 laps.

Qualifying for the final race of the season starts at 11.10am on Sunday, with a top-10 shootout to decide final grid positions for the 250km race.