A late Chris Pither lap set the pace in Friday practice for the final round of the Dunlop Super2 Series at the Coates Hire Newcastle 500.
The Garry Rogers Motorsport driver starts the weekend leading Paul Dumbrell by 32 points, while Garry Jacobson and Alex Rullo are also within 125.
He finished Friday on top, while Jacobson and Rullo were down in 11th and 19th after Practice 2 incidents.
Pither was the only driver into the 1:11s barrier across a pair of 40-minute sessions, leading the way with a 1:11.8506s in Practice 2.
Chasing a maiden Super2 title, Pither was eighth in the morning’s opening session and finished Friday 0.3229 seconds clear of Brodie Kostecki on the combined times.
Kostecki, fourth in Practice 1, led the second session until Pither turned his lap with just over one minute remaining.
Dumbrell was third in the combined order, 0.3756s adrift, having been fifth in the morning session.
Macauley Jones topped opening practice with a 1:12.7543s, and took fourth in the afternoon, ahead of Ford pair Shae Davies and Thomas Randle.
Dean Fiore was the best of the MW Motorsport Nissans, with Jacobson and Rullo 11th and 19th.
The title hopefuls were both involved in a Turn 9 incident in Practice 2, triggered by Brenton Grove nosing his Commodore into the wall.
Jacobson was first on the scene and parked up alongside Grove, with Kostecki then slowing to avoid them but being hit from behind by Rullo.
The damage ended Rullo’s afternoon, while Jacobson emerged unscathed.
He did, though, later clout the wall at Turn 1 and sustain front-end damage that ended his session.
Behind Fiore, Bryce Fullwood, Mason Barbera and Will Brown rounded out the top 10.
Kristian Lindbom is making his first Super2 start since the 2014 Queensland Raceway event, with Holden squad Kali Motorsport.
He ended the day 20th, having crashed at Turn 2 in the opening session.
ARMOR ALL Qualifying will take place at 11:15am Saturday, followed by Race 1 at 2:30pm local time.