Whincup initially qualified ninth to make his way into the Top 10 Shootout with a 1:19.8674s, some four tenths off the provisional pole sitter and team-mate Shane van Gisbergen.
So unexpected was getting pole position that Whincup was about to sit down for lunch and hope for the best.
“I'd gone and gotten changed; I was going to eat my sandwich then the boys and girls said we've got a chance at pole,” said Whincup.
“Obviously it's a really good feeling. I don't know if (David) Cauchi did a really good job with the set up between quali and the shootout, or the track got worse, or it was an advantage out of a warm car. It doesn't matter. I'll take it, for sure.”
It's a strong turnaround for Whincup, who had a spin at the Turn 9 hairpin during the first stage of qualifying.
A simple change, bringing the brake bias forward, solved a rear locking issue.
Whincup said his lap wasn't without some errors, however, he noted his Holden Commodore ZB was the best it had felt all weekend over the Senna Chicane.
“The reason why I was so out of control was because I went in so hard,” Whincup said of the staircase section.
“I made a tenth up on the way in and probably lost two on the way out. I was a bit nervous someone was going to do me by a tenth or so through that sector.
“I've been really weak in the first chicane all weekend. I think it's just my car, it doesn't quite like it, the bumps through here.
“I got through okay, probably the best all weekend. I took a bit of risk but you've got to take a bit of risk these days otherwise you end up P-nowhere.
“The car was well settled. We made a change. It was very lively through what we call the staircase. We made a little tweak and through there I was quite competitive.
“I'm happy to have first place but 78 laps this afternoon is going to be a long way.”