Nissan's Todd Kelly says he didn’t expect to finish Friday practice for his final full-time Supercars event third, after a clash with Mark Winterbottom curtailed his first session.
Kelly announced earlier this week that the Coates Hire Newcastle 500 will be his final start before retiring, the 38-year-old even indicating he’s unlikely to race again in the enduros.
In an odd moment in the opening session, Kelly overshot Turn 1, and made light contact with the Falcon of Winterbottom, who was in the escape road and moving back towards the racing circuit.
That bent a right-front steering arm in Kelly’s Altima, but his session was compromised even after a change.
Kelly had to settle for 19th, but was third in Practice 2, only behind title protagonists Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup.
“I honestly didn’t expect to be here,” he said of being in the top three.
“We missed most of the first session after that little bump that kinked the steering arm.
“We threw one on and it was miles shorter than it should have been.
“It was fairly left-hand down for that session and when the front of the car’s tracking around you don’t want to have much of a dip.
“I started to learn the track in the second session, we made one change to the car right at the end and got it pretty good.
“It would’ve been handy to have a few more miles but we’re not looking too bad now for the amount of miles we’ve had.”
Kelly is sporting a retro helmet design for the weekend, based on his first Supercars design, that brother Rick organised as a surprise for his final event.
The 2005 Bathurst winner said he “couldn’t think of a better way to finish off” his career than Newcastle’s new street circuit, which attracted a strong crowd today.
“This place has blown my expectations away in every aspect,” he said.
“The township is really cool. I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing Newcastle really before this weekend too much, it’s definitely one of those places you’d come back to if the race isn’t here.
“To be driving around such an amazing circuit for the last race couldn’t be more perfect.
“[It’s] one of my favourite tracks already and I haven’t done too many laps out there.
“Once you get into the rhythm of it and you learn how to flow the place, it’s unbelievable.”