Red Bull Holden Racing Team's Jamie Whincup finished second and Bottle-O Racing Team's Mark Winterbottom was third.
It was McLaughlin’s first ever win in Townsville. Today’s result moved McLaughlin to the top of the Supercars championship points lead for the first time in his career.
"Its cool, I wish it was November but at the end of the day its one of those things," McLaughlin said.
"I have never led it in my life so it’s a pretty cool moment I guess but there's a long way to go.
"I’m excited it’s a good place to be and we were in a worse position earlier this year so its nice to come back and be at the top."
Whincup moved back up to second position despite remaining winless in 2017.
"Obviously happy with a podium you can never be disappointed with that but we will keep doing what we always do year after year," Whincup said.
"We will keep our head down, keep chipping away, keep trying to stay on the improve on track and just go to keep our heads down."
Winterbottom was pleased with his second podium finish of 2017 despite other frustrating results.
"It's good just got to keep working we went back to basics a little bit," Winterbottom said.
"It’s a good feeling, its good to turn it around and get some confidence back and hopefully keep building."
McLaughlin’s Shell V-Power Racing teammate Fabian Coulthard started today as the points leader but has slipped to third following a spectacular incident at the start of the race which saw his car spin and collide with three other drivers. It left Coulthard in last position however he recovered to finish 11th to claim crucial championship points.
Click here for full results from today’s opening 200km race of the Watpac Townsville 400.
McLaughlin has now won five of the last seven Virgin Australia Supercars Championship races.
Qualifying, a Top Ten Shootout and a second 200km race will be held tomorrow with the race to begin at 4:10pm AEST.
Fabian Coulthard – No. 12 Shell V-Power Racing Ford
RECAP: Coulthard and his crew worked hard overnight to find a handling balance to suit the left foot braker around the Townsville street circuit. He qualified 9th, and started well before being hit from behind and spun at turn one on lap one. He dropped to the back of the pack, and then mounted a stellar recovery drive, combined with good strategy, to get back to 11th at the finish.
QUOTE: “If I can’t win, I want to see my teammate win, so congrats to Scott on a great job today. The cars are obviously fast, and to be able to climb back from that contact at the start was great. It was unfortunate, but the team did a great job with great strategy and got me back to 11th."
Scott McLaughlin – No. 17 Shell V-Power Racing Ford
RECAP: McLaughlin continued his run of dominant qualifying pace today, taking his 8th pole of 2017 in a new lap record time. He lost the lead of the race off the start, but quickly regained it and then gapped the field to maintain the lead for the length of the race. It was an emphatic win, and has elevated McLaughlin to the Championship points lead for the first time in his career.
QUOTE: “It’s fantastic for the guys at Shell V-Power Racing, had a great battle with Jamie Whincup early in the race, and was able to get by him and then get a gap. It’s very cool to take the Championship lead. We’ve still got a long way to go, though. We came here hoping to get a couple of podiums and maintain out place in the Championship, and we’ve done more than that, so I couldn’t be happier."