Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s 2014 V8 Supercars Championship Preview! The look at the Nissan Motorsport entries continues in our final preview of the day, where we share a few with Jack Daniel’s Racing.
Jack Daniel’s Racing
#7 – Todd Kelly, Jack Daniel’s Nissan Altima
#15 – Rick Kelly, Jack Daniel’s Nissan Altima
2013 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 7th
2013 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: Rick’s fifth-place finish in the opener at Hidden Valley
After all of their hard work over the past two years, 2014 might just be the year that Jack Daniel’s Racing sees their partnership with Nissan begin to bear fruit.
Longtime drivers under the famed Holden brand, brothers Todd and Rick Kelly shocked the V8SC world when they announced that they would be switching from their Commodores to run Nissan Altimas in 2013 with support from Nissan’s performance arm, NISMO. The V8SC community thought that the Kelly brothers were happy with their Holden relationship after running their cars for so long. No one expected them to end their relationship with Holden at all, much less be the guinea pig for the first new manufacturer in the V8 Supercars era (1997-present).
However, the V8SC community took the Kelly brothers for granted. In all of those years with Holden, their cars weren’t always the fastest. They were consistent, but they were never going to compete for multiple wins and the series title. Make no mistake- the Kelly brothers, at the end of the day, are a pair of racer’s racers, and they, like any other driver, want to WIN. In the end, the move to Nissan was easily defendable — take their already solid operation, and do something that would give them a better chance to win than they had before (with Holden).
While they did not win in 2013 like they would have hoped, the 2013 season had to be considered a success, especially for a team that underwent so many changes in the offseason prior. The Kelly brothers were able to maintain their team points finish (7th) from 2012, and were the highest-placed team of the three that switched manufacturers in the offseason (the other two being their stablemates with the Norton Hornets and the Mercedes of Erebus Motorsport). A large part of that 7th-place finish was due to Rick’s consistency — he tied for second in the V8 Supercars Championship with only one retirement in 36 races. Just by finishing more races than the majority of his competitors, Rick was able to help Jack Daniel’s Racing’s efforts.
However, there still were some setbacks for the team. While Rick only retired once, Todd did not finish seven of the races. In addition (like their compatriots with the Norton Hornets), the JDR cars also suffered from a high-drag aerodynamic package that left the Nissans with a lower top speed than that of their competitors. Furthermore, the Kelly brothers still weren’t the fastest on the track — Todd only cracked the top 10 twice, while Rick only finished once in the top 5 all year long.
With all that in mind, how do the Kelly brothers improve Jack Daniel’s Racing in 2014? The answer is, for the most part, identical to that of the Norton Hornets: cut down on mechanical issues and retirements, and increase the top speed of their cars so that they can compete with the top teams on the larger tracks. The year of experience running the Nissans should help JDR just as much as it should the Norton cars, as a good chunk of the mechanical issues that plagued both teams last season should be known to the team and sorted out. The Jack Daniel’s cars will also be running the new aerodynamic package that the Norton cars are running for 2014, which should mean that they will better be able to race the field on the long straightaways in the Championship.
Of course, the Kelly brothers will likely see their best results at the smaller tracks (as will their teammates), so Symmons Plains, Winton, and Queensland should all be targets for this team as tracks to run well at. But there is a small advantage the JDR cars have that the Norton cars don’t — on this team, the owners are the ones driving the race cars! Since Todd and Rick will want to be the banner-carriers for Nissan, these cars should once again get that little extra “something” to make them the best Nissans on track — if they can find that extra bit of speed, then V8 Supercars fans might see the Kelly brothers make those first few steps towards being a top contender in the championship. It would be one step closer to their vision when they signed on with Nissan, and one more mission accomplished along the way.
For more information on Jack Daniel’s Racing, visit http://jackdanielsracing.nissanmotorsport.com.au/.