Insights with Rick Kelly: All good things come to an end

V8 Supercars star and Motorsport.com columnist Rick Kelly looks back on his seven-year association with outgoing sponsor Jack Daniel’s.

Insights with Rick Kelly: All good things come to an end
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports with the media
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly, Nissan Motorsports
Rick Kelly and David Russell, Nissan Motorsports

All good things have to come to an end, but it’s still very sad to see Jack Daniel’s bid farewell to the sport after a decade of involvement as a naming rights sponsor.

It’s an incredible stint, and something I’m very proud to have been a part of for the past seven seasons.

Jack Daniel’s has been with us since the very beginning of our team in 2009, and we simply wouldn’t be where we are today without them. It’s a credit to V8 Supercars as a sport to offer value to a sponsor for a full decade.

Obviously we’ve forged some lasting friendships with the JD staff, but also their customers right the way around Australia. One thing with having such an iconic global brand involved in the sport is that not only do us drivers, or our car manufacturer have a fan following, but so too does the sponsor.

It’s amazing the number of fans you meet who are genuinely enthusiastic about Jack Daniel’s, and buy the latest merchandise every year to support the product. There aren’t many brands involved in any sport that have that have earned that sort of recognition.

A distinctive feature of the Jack Daniel’s cars over the years has been the black and white liveries, which have stayed true to the brand values throughout. Even though we’ve had some fun with some new vinyl technology in recent times, that unique style has really reinforced the brand’s recall amongst fans.

For me, outside of driving, the best part of my job without doubt is working closely with major brands. No matter where you are in the world, everyone knows about Jack Daniel’s, especially its history and what it stands for.

We have been very fortunate over the years to visit the Jack Daniel’s factory in Lynchburg, Tennessee, a couple of times, and the whole experience is mind blowing. The technique and the tradition of making the product truly makes it stand apart. I will never forget the memories of those tours.

One topic that comes up from time to time is that it’s unusual having an alcohol brand on the sides of a racing car. Clearly drinking and driving don’t mix, there’s absolutely no excuse. Since JD entered NASCAR in 2005, the message of “Pace Yourself, Drink Responsibly” has been at the core of its programme.

Together with Jack Daniel’s we have been staunch advocates for responsible drinking, working together with organisations such as the MAC (Motor Accident Commission) in South Australia to support their free public transport to the Clipsal 500. We’ve also produced road safety videos, as well as promote the tagline on all of our race cars and team merchandise.

So it’s a big thank you to Jack Daniel’s for a fantastic ride. But as one door closes another one opens, and we are already looking forward to a bright 2016.

Strong Island Showing

I think we can leave the Phillip Island weekend with our heads held high as a team. All four of our Nissan Motorport cars showed strong pace over the course of the weekend.

The two hours of Friday practice were effectively a write off, with the wet weather really limiting what we could learn ahead of the weekend’s races in the dry.

The first sprint race on Saturday got off to a tough start when a game of follow the leader into Turn 1 went horribly wrong. Shane Van Gisbergen ran wide, who was followed by Scott Pye who went even wider, with myself taking a tour through the paddock too. It was a relief to join back up to the track at Turn 2 and not wipe out half the field…

Race 2was a good turn around to finish eighth, while it was nice to improve on Sunday to finish sixth. Once again there were some first-lap shenanigans, this time through The Hayshed. I copped a massive hit, and seriously thought I would have picked up some terminal damage.

Fortunately we got away with it, and were able to march on to the finish holding off van Gisbergen.

A highlight of the race was watching at fairly close quarters as my brother Todd bringing home a fifth place result, which was a nice reward after a strong weekend.

All of our focus now is on Sydney Olympic Park, and attempting to finish as high as we can in the championship. There’s nowhere to hide in the concrete canyon, and with incredibly hot conditions, it’s without doubt the toughest hit-out of the season.

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