DJRTP's road to 900 Supercars races

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 04/08/2019
  • By Mitchell Adam. Pics: AN1 Media, Edge Photographics

DJR Team Penske became the first outfit to start 900 races in the Australian Touring Car Championship/Virgin Australia Supercars Championship last Sunday.

The milestone was reached at Queensland Raceway and – fittingly - marked with a victory for Scott McLaughlin on the weekend the team passed 100 poles.

That also sealed the 2019 manufacturers' title for Ford, with the Mustang for which DJRTP acted as the homologation team.

McLaughlin's Sunday win was the 119th for the team, whose lineage extends back to Dick Johnson Racing's ATCC debut in 1981.

The young Kiwi proudly carries Johnson's famous #17 and is on course for back-to-back titles, which would be the ninth drivers' crown for the team.

But it hasn't all been smooth sailing, as a look back at its milestone races reflects.

Race 1: Symmons Plains 1981

Dick Johnson made headlines at Bathurst in 1980, when he hit a rock that had fallen on the circuit and crashed out of the lead.

A public appeal backed by Ford helped him regroup, including with a new Falcon for DJR's ATCC debut – Johnson's earlier outings coming with other teams – in 1981.

Johnson won Symmons Plains' season opener and the first race of Round 2 at Calder Park, pictured. In all, he claimed eight wins on the way to a maiden crown.

A first Bathurst 1000 victory also followed later that year with John French.

Race 100: Amaroo Park 1992, Race 2

Johnson dominated the 1980s, winning all five of his titles that decade.

The 1981, '82 and '84 crowns came in Group C Falcons, before back-to-back triumphs in '88 and '89 aboard Group A Sierras.

In that period, the Shell-backed team had expanded to two cars, Johnson joined by John Bowe.

The 1992 season was the last for the Sierras, as the Nissan Skyline reigned supreme.

Bowe and Johnson finished a wet second race of the year at Amaroo Park 10th and 12th, and the 1992 championship fourth and eighth.

Race 200: Mallala 1996, Race 2

Bowe won the championship for DJR in 1995, but could not turn a strong start to '96 into back-to-back titles.

After a mammoth accident at Phillip Island, he wound up second in the standings with Johnson 10th.

The year was a rare case of a DJR entry carrying #1, given Johnson's penchant for #17 even as the defending champion, which McLaughlin has adopted this season at least.

In the team's 200th race at Mallala, the penultimate round, Bowe finished second to Craig Lowndes and Johnson ninth.

Race 300: Barbagallo 2000, Race 2

By DJR's 300th race, its long-running Johnson/Bowe combination had made way for an all-new line-up.

Bowe left at the end of 1998 for the PAE Motorsport project, while Johnson retired one year later.

In their place were Steven Johnson and Paul Radisich, Bowe's replacement who won four races in 2000 with the unloved AU Falcon.

Radisich and rookie Johnson finished fifth and eighth in Race 2 of Round 2, and fourth and 11th in the points.

Race 400: Queensland Raceway 2003

Radisich moved on at the end of 2002 in an effective seat swap with Briggs Motorsport's Brazilian driver Max Wilson.

Johnson and Wilson finished the 2003 season 16th and 17th as the squad's form dipped, the latter taking DJR's only podium in the very last race at Eastern Creek.

It was a Queensland Raceway outing to forget for the Shell Fords, Johnson its best finisher in 12th and a lap down.

Race 500: Phillip Island 2006, Race 3

'Shell Ford' became synonymous with DJR but the major partnership concluded at the end of 2004.

Ill-fated sponsorship deals and business ventures followed, in a period of financial turmoil for Johnson and his team.

In 2006, Johnson-fronted businesses adorned the Falcons of Steven Johnson and rookie Will Davison.

DJR's 500th race in the 2006 finale is notable for Davison's inadvertent role in settling the title, collecting Lowndes who had been spun by rival Rick Kelly.

He retired due to the damage while Johnson finished 22nd, Johnson and Davison ultimately ninth and 19th in the points.

Race 600: Homebush 2009, Race 2

Major backer Jim Beam and co-owner Charlie Schwerkolt arrived to help steady the ship, and DJR enjoyed a revival.

Davison won two races in 2008 and finished fifth in the championship, enough to be signed by the Holden Racing Team to replace Mark Skaife.

James Courtney arrived and won a pair of races in 2009, including DJR's 600th start, at the new Homebush street circuit.

Johnson finished sixth in the 2009 championship and Courtney seventh, the latter laying the foundations for a title-winning '10.

Race 700: Circuit of the Americas 2013, Race 4

Another period of instability followed Courtney's championship, with the driver and Schwerkolt moving on.

Trying campaigns in 2011 and '12 were followed by a battle to even be on the grid in '13 for the start of the Car of the Future era.

Financial woes meant Steven Johnson had to step back from driving duties, DJR instead fielding Tim Blanchard and Jonny Reid.

Reid was replaced by FPR junior Chaz Mostert after three events, with the weekend of the team's 700th race in the USA Mostert's second.

He finished 15th and Blanchard 23rd, Mostert then taking a memorable maiden victory at Queensland Raceway two months later.

Race 800: Phillip Island 2016, Race 1

US giant Team Penske bought a 51-percent stake of the outfit in late-2014, creating the current DJR Team Penske union.

Marcos Ambrose's Supercars return proved short-lived, and the squad entered 2016 with Scott Pye and Fabian Coulthard in its Falcons.

Coulthard's first podium with DJRTP, a third place, came in its 800th race at Phillip Island early in the campaign.

He finished the season 12th and Pye 15th, both drivers taking a pair of podiums as green shoots emerged.

Race 900: Queensland Raceway 2019, Race 2

McLaughlin arrived to replace Pye in 2017 and narrowly missed the crown first up but made amends in '18.

DJRTP has become a genuine heavyweight, winning 38 of the 77 races since the start of 2017, and that year's teams' championship.

Armed with the Mustang his team helped develop, McLaughlin recorded his 14th victory of the campaign last Sunday in the team's 900th race.

McLaughlin and Coulthard are first and second in the drivers' standings and DJRTP a commanding 807 points clear in the teams' championship.

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