Todd Kelly says that he was touched by the ovation he received from his team as he pulled into pit lane following a Top 10 in his likely final race.
Kelly announced in the week prior to the Coates Hire Newcastle 500 that this year’s season finale would be his last Supercars event as a full-time driver, and subsequently declared himself unlikely to return as an enduro co-driver.
In a carsales Nissan Altima stickered up overnight as a throwback to his first round podium back in 2001, Kelly went on to earn a berth in the Armor All Top 10 Shootout which finalised the grid for this afternoon’s season-ending race.
Starting from 10th, the Nissan Motorsport co-owner gained a position at the start but lost ground during the first pit stops cycle.
He re-emerged back in 10th when the second round of pit stops shook out, and stayed there for the remaining 41 laps of the race.
“I really wanted to get a good result for my last day in the car. Just to finish around this place seems like a good result,” Kelly explained.
“I was quite cautious for most of the race. I was not wanting a DNF for my last time.
“We had a car that was good enough to press on a little bit, but I decided to hang back and take 10th rather than risk it.
“I was pretty emotional when I pulled up and saw everyone standing outside the garage.
“I was completely fine until then, but that knocked me about.
“We’re done now. I’m finished.”
The 38-year-old reiterated that he was nevertheless content with his decision to step out of the seat to focus on managing Nissan Motorsport.
“I came to terms with my decision before the weekend,” Kelly reflected.
“The race team really needs to take priority now, and it’s a critical time for us.
“We’ve pushed hard in the second half of this season in preparations for next year. We want to make next year the best year yet.
“Having that as a goal is making me feel better about not being in the car.”
The team is rumoured to have signed Andre Heimgartner as Kelly’s replacement for 2018.