Mark Winterbottom has credited his first Clipsal 500 podium to team strategy after a stroke of genius from Ford Performance Racing launched him into today's V8 Supercar race lead.

The Prodrive-run team kept the 26-year-old out for an extended second stint, which saw him rejoin in front of previous race leader Craig Lowndes.

Winterbottom maintained position for 31 laps in the Ford Falcon, holding off the best efforts of first Lowndes and then Jamie Whincup, but a controversial move from Whincup on the penultimate lap saw the 888 driver take the race win.

'Frosty', who finished second, added though that the result only makes him more determined to bounce back on Sunday in race 2 and register his name among the winners' circle of the iconic Clipsal 500, which is this year celebrating its 10th anniversary.

"When Craig got behind me after the second stop I was pretty much just holding him there," said Winterbottom. "Our brakes went away a little bit and that cost us a bit of time at the end but if the safety car hadn't come out on lap 70 bunching us all up again I could have been on the top step today.

"At the end, though, FPR believes this is our weakest round and yet we're starting in P2 tomorrow so I'm looking forward to seeing what the other rounds can bring! We've got points in round one and we know the second half of the season will be strong for us so I'm happy with today's result.

"In terms of Jamie's pass, I feel I got pushed out the way but he probably feels differently. I'm not going to complain about it; you just move on. We'll have a good night's sleep tonight; we've got a bottle of champagne to help with that, which is always good!"

Steven Richards meanwhile fought his way up from ninth on the grid to run in a strong third place after his second pit stop in the sister FPR car. Tyre wear, however, meant he could not hold back a charging Whincup, who also let Lee Holdsworth through to put Richards fifth.

"I'm pretty sure we stopped early relative to Jamie Whincup so when he came out of the pits I had ten laps more on my tyres plus the car was working its rear tyres very hard. I couldn't sustain the pace. I had a little slide and that allowed both Jamie and Lee Holdsworth up the inside of me," Richards explained.

"I'm starting fifth tomorrow now. The car is fast enough; I think we had the second fastest lap of the race so we just need to make it hang its tyres in a bit more. With a couple of good pit stops and good strategy and if the driver keeps it on the black stuff, we could end up with that win!"