Supercars leader Jamie Whincup expects a testing series finale after taking his first look at the Newcastle 500 track on Monday morning.
Whincup and his Triple Eight team engineer, David Cauchi, spent several hours walking the circuit and taking notes in preparation for the race weekend from November 24 to 26.
Read more: Newcastle Supercars 2017: The complete guide
He said he was surprised at how big Newcastle was and both excited and intimidated by the first new circuit on the Supercars calendar since Townsville in 2009.
“It’s our first new track for a long, long time,” he said. “My initial thoughts are great. It’s going to be so challenging for the driver. Really, really challenging.
“Some of the corners are quite unique. The terrain is huge as well. It’s not something that we’re used to, especially at street tracks.”
The Holden star, who leads Ford rival Scott McLaughlin by just 30 points, is the most successful driver in the history of the Australian touring car championship with six series wins.
But he has not finished a season on top since 2014 and was second last year.
“There’s plenty of nerves,” the 34-year-old said.
“Are we going to enjoy it the whole way through? Not as much as if we had a little bit of a lead in the championship, but whoever gets the chocolates is going to feel quite a reward from it.”
He said drivers and their support teams would prepare as best they could for the race weekend by walking the track over the next 10 days.
The pit straight on Wharf Road was closed on Monday as Supercars contractors worked on installing track infrastructure, and Shortland Esplanade remains closed between Watt Street and Ocean Street.
The Newcastle Herald reported on Friday that Supercars had been forced to cap access to the Cold Chisel concert on Saturday, November 25, due to the demand for tickets.
Based on ticket sales, race organisers still expect a total crowd of 150,000 over the three days.