IT still saddens me that the first thing that comes into so many fans’ minds when the name Rick Kelly is mentioned is that infamous finish to the 2006 V8 Supercar Championship at Phillip Island.
What happened that day has been mentioned over and over for the past 14 years so I don’t need to go into the background or blow-by-blow description – if, for some reason, you don’t know the goings-on that day, do some Google searching.
To some, Rick Kelly is defined in their minds by what happened that day. Nothing can change their viewpoint. That’s their problem.
But to sum up one driver’s career in one moment is completely illogical.
Over time, Rick’s achievements really do speak for themselves in the wake of the news today that he’s decided to call time on his full-time Supercars career.
He’s racked up a Supercars Championship, two Bathurst 1000 wins and a Gold Star as Australian Drivers Champion in 2001.
He’s made 265 Supercars Championship round starts – only Craig Lowndes and Garth Tander have made more.
There’s 13 championship race wins, 39 podiums and 10 pole positions against his name.
Sure, he was in good gear for the ‘Clayton’ period of his Supercars career. From a Kmart endurance seat in 2001 to full-time HRT-run Young Lions in 2002 and Kmart/HSV Dealer Team from 2003 to 2008, Rick was in a situation and a position to punch out results.
Having the gear is one thing – going out and doing it is a whole other thing.
I have no doubt he’d have a pile more trophies and career achievements had he not decided to go in with the family Kelly Racing team when it was created in 2009.
There were other teams keen for him to drive their very competitive cars, however, he elected to turn down the deals and focus on building something special in Braeside.
The trials and tribulations of being involved in establishing and then running his family’s team (he stepped back to a driver-only role a few years back) coupled with the establishment and hard yards of the Nissan Altima program and now a Ford Mustang project, have meant that we really haven’t seen the sort of results we saw in the first half of his Supercars career.
But it’s made people forget just how bloody good Rick Kelly is behind the wheel.
Ask his former teammates, blokes like Garth Tander and Greg Murphy. They know.
The stats sheet really does not paint the full picture of Rick’s career.
But over time I bet there will be far more people who stop and come to understand just how good he has been – it might just take them some time to catch up with the rest of us.
I did notice that the press release issued today didn’t include a mention of Rick definitely driving in the endurance race/s next year – but if he does, that Co-Driver Cup sure looks like a bloody competitive thing in 2021!
Well played Ricko – congrats on a huge career both in and out of the car.