V8 Supercars great Mark Skaife has praised Rick Kelly's performance over the weekend, resulting in a podium finish for Nissan in Sunday's race at the Castrol Gold Coast 600.
Despite dropping backfrom 14th to 23rd on the first lap with David Russell behind the wheel, the team and Kelly were able to salvage a strong result with clever strategy and a brilliant fuel saving drive by the 2006 V8 Supercars Champion.
The Jack Daniel's Nissan suffered from an unusual strategy call in Saturday's race, with the team attempting two stints on the Dunlop soft tyre, but thinking outside the box worked for them on Sunday and delivered Nissan its first podium of the endurance season.
"They did a great job to save the fuel that Rick Kelly did - he's a very underrated guy," Skaife said on Inside Supercars.
"Remember, he's been a champion before, he's driving very well, some of his qualifying performances this year have been very good.
"That was a great drive to be able to save fuel at that point of the race and end up on the podium."
Kelly qualified fourth on the Saturday, with fellow Nissan driver James Moffat right behind him in fifth after the ARMOR ALL Top 10 Shootout, showing the Altimas had speed on the street circuit. Michael Caruso and Dean Fiore achieved a podium finish last year, so it is a track the Nissan has performed well atin the past.
"The cars were probably more competitive in terms of outright pace - James Moffat was very fast also - they were probably better off than I thought they were," Skaife said.
Kelly and Russell were in a similar positionto eventual winners James Courtney and Jack Perkins, topping up with fuel a few laps in a second stop during the Safety Car period - though the Nissan didn't need to double stack.Kellydescribed Sunday's as an exciting race and called his part a "massive project" as he conserved to take the car home.
"For me I'm excited about that, I love a good project in the car, and we had to come up with a way of making good lap times while saving fuel," Kelly said.
"We managed to do it, George (Commins, engineer) and the boys did a good job of keeping me up to date, and it's a fantastic way to finish off the Enduro Cup.
"It's been a tougher one for us, we would have loved better results at the other races, but to finish it off with a second is pretty special for us.
"We can take a lot from that, and head to the next race with a smile on our face."
The result keeps Kelly in the top 10 in the Championship, with the #15 the highest placed of the four Nissans for 2015 in ninth.
For Russell, it meant his first ever V8 Supercars podium.
"Rick did an amazing job with his fuel saving - not only that, but also the pace he had was spot on," Russell said.
"It was an amazing race, it's a testament to all of hard working crew at Nissan Motorsport and on the Jack Daniel's Racing crew.
"To reward them with a podium is very important to us. I feel that Rick and I were well and truly overdue for a result, we've been on for a result in the past but things haven't gone our way."