Scott McLaughlin lamented the fact a maiden Supercars title was “taken away” from him by his last-lap penalty in Newcastle.
The Shell V-Power Racing driver had already served two penalties in the last race of the season, but took the 11th place he required to win the title on the penultimate lap.
However he then made contact with Craig Lowndes on the run towards Turn 2 after moving over to cover the inside line, which ultimately resulted in Lowndes crashing heavily.
Stewards issued McLaughlin a 25-second time penalty that dropped him to 16th, as Jamie Whincup won the race and a seventh title.
“I’m pretty gutted,” McLaughlin said of the outcome.
“I was pushing hard, obviously. At the end of the day I wasn’t going to die wondering.
“I gave it my all. Obviously got the pass into Turn 11 there [on James Moffat on lap 93], then I made a little mistake into 1.
“I’d lost my left mirror so I didn’t know where Lowndes was and I saw in my rear view that he’d gone left, so I protected that line but just left a little bit of room there, that I felt was a car width, for him, just in case he was there.
“Then obviously something massive happened because he bounced into me, massively, and we got caught up.
“I felt I raced fair, for it to be taken away like that, I don’t agree with it.”
That the penalty was dealt during the race rather than after meant the Shell Ford squad had no avenues to appeal it.
McLaughlin added “it would’ve been nice if we could do a post-race investigation and look at points and stuff”.
The 24-year-old believes he had left Lowndes enough room in the incident that dropped the Triple Eight driver from sixth to 10th in the championship.
“I felt like I did everything in my power with what I had around me with no left-hand mirror,” McLaughlin said.
“I felt like I left significant… it was tight, but I left a car width just in case he was there.
“To get the thud, it made it look even worse than it did. No driver in that position’s going to agree with that penalty.”
McLaughlin and team-mate Fabian Coulthard were both penalised for speeding in pit entry at their first pitstops, along with Erebus Motorsport’s Dale Wood.
Shell V-Power Racing’s data could not provide any insight on a breach, while McLaughlin’s second in-race penalty was for turning Simona De Silvestro around at Turn 2 on lap 45 of the 95.
“The first one, I felt like I was careful into pitlane, so I’m not sure what happened there,” McLaughlin admitted.
“Fabs said he didn’t think he was speeding either. That’s a hard one.”