Andre Heimgartner. Pic: Mark Horsburgh

SECOND place in the opening leg of the Repco Supercars Championship’s Pukekohe swansong means more to Andre Heimgartner than the sole race win of his top-flight career.

Heimgartner got a rousing reception from the enormous Kiwi crowd after finishing runner-up to Will Davison in Race 27.

It has quickly become more special to him than the breakthrough victory he claimed last year at The Bend Motorsport Park.

“I’d probably say it was better,” he declared, comparing today’s result to the 2021 win.

“The reaction at The Bend, you know, you don’t get a crowd like that at The Bend.

“To do well in front of my fellow countrymen is pretty awesome.

“I would probably say that was better than the win.”

Heimgartner gained ground during the pit stop cycle, his Brad Jones Racing crew working their magic with a slick tyre change.

He had never before finished inside the top seven in a Pukekohe Supercars race.

Heimgartner chalked up his third podium of the season. Pic: Mark Horsburgh

“It was funny. I was happy I came second but [the fans] were acting like I won the race,” he said.

“It was cool to see that. I can only imagine what it would be like if we actually won the race.

“As a young kid, being on the other side of that, and then having them cheer for you, it’s a pretty awesome feeling.”

Heimgartner is now a genuine contender for the final Jason Richards Memorial Trophy to be awarded at Pukekohe.

Another 210 points are on the line across two 41-lappers tomorrow, with the most round points taking the silverware.

“I’m driving Car #8 which he drove as well and for the team that he drove for,” Heimgartner said in reference to Richards, who lost his battle with cancer in 2011.

“And being a Kiwi, I guess you could say it would mean a lot to everyone in our team.”

Connor O’Brien joined V8 Sleuth in 2022 as website Editor. He won the Supercars Media Award in 2017 while working as a sports reporter at the Gold Coast Bulletin, before stints at Supercars and Speedcafe. During his time at V8 Sleuth he's twice (2022, 2023) been named Journalist of the Year at the Supercars Media Awards.