Nissan Motorsport’s Todd Kelly will join a special select club at next weekend’s Castrol EDGE Townsville 400 in North Queensland.
The carsales Nissan Altima driver will chalk up his 500th Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race when he lines up for the 200-kilometre Saturday race, making him just the fifth driver to start 500 championship races.
The 2005 Bathurst winner joins Craig Lowndes, Russell Ingall, Garth Tander and Jason Bright in the ‘500 Club’.
“It doesn’t make me feel old, it’s handy for me though that I started very young, younger than the rest of those other blokes in the 500 club,” the 36-year-old told v8supercars.com.au this week.
“I’m glad we’re nearing the end of the milestones so we don’t have to worry about many more of then! We’ve had a few of them lately, particularly with Rick’s 200th round start.
“The good thing about milestones is that they make you sit back and think about the past, which often you don’t have time to do.
“I’m not really one to sit around and ponder what we’ve done; Rick and I are similar with that. We’re only really worried about what we can do in the future.”
Kelly made his VASC debut back in 1999 at the opening round of that year at Eastern Creek in a Young Lions Commodore. He was 19 years of age and had competed the previous year in the Sandown and Bathurst races as co-driver to John Faulkner in the privateer Holden driver’s Commodore – though those races were not part of the championship in 1998.
A major accident in the first race at Eastern Creek 1999 sidelined Kelly’s Commodore for the remaining two races of that round, though since then he’s really only missed the latter part of 2012 due to shoulder surgery.
He brought up his 100th race start in 2003 in Darwin, his 200th at Phillip Island in 2006 (with a win for the Holden Racing Team), his 300th at Sydney Olympic Park in 2009 and his 400th at Queensland Raceway in 2013.
Winning Bathurst in 2005 remains an obvious highlight but it’s an event from earlier that season he remains very proud of.
“I’ll always have a soft spot for the win in China in 2005,” he says.
“That was pretty cool to do, given we’ve never been back since, I am still the reigning champion too!
“Over 500 races there are always a couple that could have or should have been wins.
“We’ve been close to Bathurst a few other times but one of the big things from all the years, and the hell of a lot of races I have done, is that I’ve had a good run with accidents.
“Other than that first round at Eastern Creek in 1999, I really haven’t had any major accidents or injuries.”
Kelly has represented Nissan since 2013, a relationship that will reach 50 rounds at the end of July at Queensland Raceway.
But Townsville hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Kelly in years gone by.
His best finish at Reid Park remains a 10th-placed finish, which he scored in the inaugural race in 2009 and matched in last year’s Sunday race.
Kelly also had not qualified in the top 10 in Townsville until last year, averaging a grid position of 20.2 over the 15 races held there over the last seven years.
“Last year we got a bit better with our Townsville form and I got into the Shootout,” says Kelly.
“Our cars and engines weren’t really suited to that place, as well as me not being all that suited from a driving style point of view.
“But last year the crew did a fair bit of work with the driving side of it, which made a big difference. I was way more competitive relative to our other cars.
“We’ve made big improvements with our cars and engines since we were there last so hopefully this year will be a bit of a different story.”