Winterbottom: I'm 'nowhere near' finished

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 20/11/2019
  • By Connor O'Brien

Mark Winterbottom has declared IRWIN Racing will be his last Supercars team – but he’s “nowhere near” hanging up the helmet.

The 2015 champion will celebrate his 500th race start on Saturday at the Coates Hire Newcastle 500, becoming just the seventh driver in history to reach that milestone.

It comes at the end of his first season at a revamped Team 18 outfit, having spent the previous 13 years with Tickford Racing.

At 38, Winterbottom is the second-oldest driver on the grid behind James Courtney.

While Winterbottom’s long-time archrival Jamie Whincup has hinted at retiring in the foreseeable future, the man known as ‘Frosty’ is not going anywhere.

He is eager to be part of Team 18’s growth, including expanding to two cars next year when Scott Pye joins from Walkinshaw Andretti United.

Winterbottom is under contract for 2020 and intends to drive well beyond then.

“This team will be it for me,” Winterbottom told Supercars.com.

“I think history shows that I don’t chop and change like a few do.

“I’ve had 13 years at one team and I signed to Charlie [Schwerkolt, Team 18 owner] for long-term to help turn his team into a race-winning team because I still think I have got a lot I can give and I still feel like I am driving really well.

“I’m pretty honest, when you’re not getting results, you kind of know when it’s you or when it’s not. But Charlie is really good to race for and I enjoy my racing.

“It’s not like it’s a chore going to the track or anything like that, he’s such a good guy to race for, he’s inspiring and I feel there is a lot more years left.

“I’m desperate turn his team into a success because he deserves it, so I’ll keep working hard with him.”

“There’ll be a point where you transition [to co-driving] but I’m nowhere near that yet.”

Winterbottom holds 13th in the championship ahead of Newcastle with an ARMOR ALL Pole Position at Symmons Plains and two fourth place race finishes the highlights.

“Unfortunately when you’re up at the higher end of age in the category, people look to you for that sort of [transition] thing but some of the laps I have done this year have been some of the best laps I have done for years,” he said.

“[At Sandown, Craig] Lowndes drives off, [Garth] Tander drives through the field…

“Age is just a number but you have got to enjoy it and have the team around you and I have got that, so plenty to go.”

Newcastle has proven a strong track for Team 18 in the past, with Lee Holdsworth scoring three top 10 finishes from four starts across 2017-18.

Action for the 2019 finale begins with practice on Friday.

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