After another top ten qualifying session earlier in the day, Jack Daniel's Racing’s Rick Kelly was looking to an equally solid race at Winton Raceway this afternoon.
Kelly got a good start from ninth and was just ahead of the first lap turn three scuffle, between James Courtney and Jason Bright, which resulted in a three-lap safety car period. While others pitted, Rick and team-mate Tim Blanchard stayed out.
Blanchard, starting on the soft compound tyres in the sister Jack Daniel's Racing Commodore, got a great start and avoided all the trouble in turn three on the opening lap, to move up to 14th from his 28th starting spot by lap five. Tim was showing excellent pace but any further progress up the field was lost at turn nine, on lap nine, when Will Davison spun him off the track.
Blanchard quickly dropped down the order and by lap ten was back in 23rd. By lap 15 Rick was battling for 11th place in a big group that included Craig Lowndes, Dean Fiore, Tony D'Alberto and title contender, Mark Winterbottom.
Blanchard pitted for fuel and a change to the hard compound tyres on lap 21 and then drove solidly, showing good pace throughout the race to eventually finish 22nd.
Kelly pitted on lap 27 for fuel and a change to soft tyres, dropping to 18th. With the soft tyres on, he was looking forward to moving up the field as others struggled for grip late in the race. Showing plenty of pace, Rick moved his way up the field to eventually finish 13th.
Today’s 46-lap race was won by Jamie Whincup, who took another step towards his fourth V8 Supercars title by leading home team-mate Craig Lowndes. Lee Holdsworth took his first podium for 2012 by sneaking ahead of an out-of-fuel Mark Winterbottom at the finish line.
After the race Rick was pleased with his pace but rued the missed opportunity and said: “It was a good day qualifying wise and speed wise for us. It was a pleasant surprise to see the set up we bolted on for today got us in the top ten, which was great.
With the early safety car we didn’t grab the best strategy of the race, which unfortunately took us from seventh at that point to back in the pack and that track position was gone for us.
We had promising car speed and can improve on today. I think we had a better car than where we finished. We’ll certainly give it a bigger go tomorrow”.
Tim Blanchard was also pleased with his pace, starting on soft tyres, but frustrated circumstances didn’t allow him to show it and commented: “Our pace was good early and we were moving forward and it was looking like it was going to be a good day.
I’m not sure what happened, but got turned around on lap ten and that made our afternoon pretty difficult from there. Apart from that, I think our pace was good towards the end, once we were on the hards and I’m confident we can be competitive tomorrow”.
Jack Daniel's Racing