Kelly shows Nissan what it’ll be missin’
RICK Kelly responded to news that his team would be dumped by Nissan at the end of the year by storming home to claim a victory his brother Todd compared to winning a Bathurst 1000.
In a giant-killing drive just four days after Kelly Racing was officially sacked by Nissan after six years, Kelly held on to beat Scott Pye and Shane van Gisbergen at Winton with a performance that will give the Japanese giant reason for regret.
Kelly Racing co-owner Todd couldn’t control his emotions after his brother crossed the line days after his team was stripped of a multimillion-dollar deal.
“This is better than winning Bathurst, what we have been through,’’ Todd said. “What the boys have achieved today has been absolutely unbelievable. I will never forget it.’’
The sport was rocked by the news that Supercars would become a battle between only Holden and Ford in the future when Nissan revealed on Tuesday it was quitting the sport.
Kelly Racing — also known as Nissan Motorsport — declared it would fight on following the announcement.
And yesterday it made good on the promise with Rick Kelly pouncing to steal the lead after a 30-lap safety car and holding on to record one of his best wins.
“I am trying to hold all the emotion back,’’ Rick said.
“It was all pretty quiet on the radio toward the end of the race. I think everyone is all pretty overwhelmed with this.’’
DJR/Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin looked likely to continue his winning streak after setting himself up for another triumph by claiming his 39th career pole position.
Beating teammate Fabian Coulthard by 0.1283 seconds, the one-lap wonder moved to equal fifth on the all-time list of pole position winners, joining Ford legend Allan Moffat on 39.
And a fifth-straight win never looked in doubt for McLaughlin until he had a six-second lead wiped away when a safety car was called with 10 laps to go.
Enter Rick Kelly. Looking wounded and struggling to hold on to second, Kelly pounced at
the restart to steal the lead as McLaughlin went backwards. Kelly was then forced to hold off a fast-finishing Pye for an edge-of-your-seat finish.
“We knew we were in a little bit of trouble there at the safety car restart,’’ Kelly said.
“Scotty was pretty straight and we had a lot of build-up on the tyres. I was hoping it wasn’t just us and he had a big wobble through one and two and I got enough of my tyres to sneak up the inside. I am pretty proud of that and the Castrol rig today was pretty incredible.
“The boys put so much into this. It was a great win.’’
Kelly could not hide the pride in his first win since 2011.
“It means everything,’’ he said. “You come here to win races and it is just a credit to the guys that have done so much work over the years to put us in this position.’’
Todd paid credit to both his team and his brother.
“It just shows the calibre of these guys here,’’ he said.
“You couldn’t have been faced with more diversity and distraction in the lead-up to this and they have dug deep to get the job done. The crew, the drivers, everyone is just amazing.
“And Rick has been through a lot, too, to do that and keep his head screwed on. The pressure he was under that whole race was pretty crazy and he just put it down and got the job done.
“We have worked so hard for so long. There were times I didn’t think that work would pay off.
“I am so glad we have been able to do this.”
Rick Kelly and his Kelly Racing Nissan team celebrate winning at Winton. Picture: Getty