Michael Caruso insists he held no fears that Nissan would recommit to Supercars without him, despite rampant speculation that the manufacturer was courting a replacement.
Nissan this morning confirmed a new two-year deal for Caruso as part of its recommitment to the Kelly team and the Supercars category.
Alongside team co-owners Rick and Todd Kelly, Caruso has been a mainstay of Nissan’s Supercars program since its inception in 2013.
With his current contract due to expire at the end of this year, speculation linking the likes of James Courtney and Simona de Silvestro to the team had appeared to threaten Caruso’s future.
“It’s funny, I think a lot of the media chat was made up, to be honest,” Caruso told Speedcafe.com when asked if he had been concerned for his future.
“As we sit here today I’ve signed a deal to be here and I know I’ve always been a part of their plans if they were to continue.
“My position from the outset was that I wanted to continue with the team, I just wanted to wait on what Nissan’s decision was going to be.
“But I never felt threatened remotely and the position that I’ve been in results wise for the team this year has obviously strengthened my situation.”
Although Caruso is the only driver currently confirmed for the Nissan team in 2017, co-owners Rick and Todd Kelly are both expected to continue behind the wheel.
Todd Kelly declared that he has given no thoughts to retirement as he heads towards an 18th season as a full-time driver.
“I’m just starting to come good,” he smiled.
“I’m really enjoying driving. Over the past three or four years I’ve had a few shoulder operations and a few injuries which I’m now completely back on top of.
“Other than every now and then in these things (media conferences) when it gets brought up, I’m not even thinking about not driving a car.
“The team is at a point now where it’s the easiest it’s ever been to run. If I didn’t drive I’d put myself out of a job.”
De Silvestro is thought most likely to land in the fourth Altima following recent confirmation that the Supercars-backed Supergirls entry will be run by Nissan at Bathurst this year.
“There’s a lot of options kicking around,” said Todd Kelly of the fourth car.
“The phones have been ringing pretty hot with people wanting to jump in our cars.
“At the moment we’ve got a good relationship with Dale (Wood) and we’re working with him
“But this (Nissan deal) has come along very recently.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to get from this point to the start of next season.”