Dick Johnson made a rare appearance on the Supercars podium at Hidden Valley to mark a century of wins for his legendary team.
Usually keen to avoid the smell of champagne and allow his crew members to soak up the spotlight, Johnson’s place on the dais cemented a special day in the team’s history.
DJR Team Penske’s star driver Scott McLaughlin held off arch rival Shane van Gisbergen’s Red Bull Holden to take out the opening leg of the CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown.
It was the 19th win for the squad since McLaughlin and lauded technical guru Ludo Lacroix joined the team 18 months ago.
Their arrival kick-started a new era of success for the squad, which had not won since 2013, despite US giant Penske taking a majority stake at the start of ’15.
While Johnson is now a minority owner, the DJR Team Penske stats include all of DJR’s history, which officially began in 1981.
Still travelling to the bulk of the events and riding every bump with the team, the now 73-year-old says winning never gets old.
“I only go to the podium when I have to, but the smell is worth it, I think,” Johnson told Supercars.com.
“To reach 100 wins is pretty special. Statistics are funny things with the amount of races they have now, but I’ll take it.
“I’m a loyal person and I’ve seen the way the team has risen from the dead to where we are.
“I’ve been there through the good times and the bad times, but if you sit by the stream long enough, things come around.”
The milestone was the latest magic moment in the career of McLaughlin, who recently attended the Indianapolis 500 alongside Roger Penske.
“Being able to win the 100th DJR win with the #17 car is pretty special,” McLaughlin smiled.
“To have Dick up there on the podium was really cool. I’m pinching myself right at this point.”
Lacroix pitted McLaughlin early in the 42-lap contest, requiring the youngster to hold on in the dying laps as van Gisbergen closed on fresher rubber. “Scott learnt an awful lot last year,” said Johnson, after McLaughlin won eight times and scored 16 poles in 2017 only to fall short of the title in a heartbreaking finale.
“He managed the tyres on the car, he could have gone faster, but he knew damn well if he did they’d fall off the cliff.
“He was smart enough to manage the tyres long enough until [his rivals’] actually fell over, otherwise he wouldn’t have won.”
Johnson won five championships as a driver (1981, ’82, ’84, ’88 and ’89), before his team found further success with John Bowe (’95) and James Courtney (2010).
It nearly folded in the years after the Courtney triumph, before being saved by businessmen Steve Brabeck, who passed away earlier this year, and Ryan Story.
Before buying into the team, Brabeck and Story were among Johnson’s legion of fans, drawn to the Queenslander’s laconic nature and dry wit, as well as his talents behind the wheel.
Story is now enjoying the team’s latest golden era, which following the input of Penske, has included the return of former sponsor Shell and a new deal with Ford.
“It’s a tremendous day for the team and a great honour to be a part of it, working with Dick and Roger and the whole group,” Story, far left above, told Supercars.com.
“We’re proud to have days like this and reach a milestone like this one. It means an awful lot to all of us.”
DJR Team Penske is the third Supercars outfit to score 100 wins, with Walkinshaw Andretti United currently on 180, and Triple Eight on 175.