Kelly has an American dream

Excited: Rick Kelly is fulfilling a fantasy by racing his Nissan Altima at the Austin 400 and is hoping he can ”sneak into the top 10” . Photo: SuppliedThe only thing that could make former champion Rick Kelly happier than finally getting to race in the United States would be to score Nissan’s first V8 Supercars victory at the inaugural Austin 400.

It’s very unlikely because the Japanese car maker is early in its freshman year and still a long way from catching up to Ford and Holden, which have dominated for 20 years.

But while he faces another character-testing struggle to threaten the top 10 in V8 Supercars’ first event in the US at the Circuit Of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on Sunday and Monday morning Australian time, Kelly is fulfilling a fantasy by racing in the Lone Star State.

”Racing a V8 Supercar over here is a dream come true,” he told Fairfax Media. ”I can do what I love in America, which is a place I really like. I’ve always loved coming over here.” Kelly, 30, once had ambitions to pursue a career in American stock cars, visiting NASCAR teams in 2007 – the year after he won the V8 title – in search of an opportunity to compete in a starter series.

Even though former V8 champion Marcos Ambrose had successfully graduated from truck racing to NASCAR’s second-tier stock car competition, there was no interest from NASCAR teams in giving another Australian road racer a chance.

Kelly’s disappointment at not being able to get his foot in the NASCAR door will be forgotten when he races his Jack Daniel’s Racing Nissan Altima in the four-race Austin 400, which he regards as ”a big moment” for V8 Supercars.

”It’s extremely exciting. It really is a dream come true to have an international race in America. I love the place.”

Kelly’s enthusiasm for the US meant he had no qualms about heading over early for a two-day promotional tour in Tennessee for his team’s major backers, Jack Daniel’s and Nissan, both of whom have operations in Nashville.

”It’s a little bit like a home event for us because it’s our sponsors’ home turf,” he said of racing in the country of origin of the whiskey maker and the roadgoing version of the Altima, which will be launched in Australia at the end of the year. After accepting that his American dream wasn’t going to come true, Kelly joined his brother Todd – also a leading V8 driver – in the even more ambitious goal of establishing their own V8 Supercars team.

They became teammates in 2009 and this year are running Nissan Australia’s return to racing, fielding four Altimas under the new Car Of The Future regulations that have opened the sport to new makes.

It’s been a struggle for both Rick and Todd Kelly as they try to fast-track the development of their all-new Altimas while spending most of the races battling to finish in the top 15.

In the first four events, they routinely qualified in the bottom third of the 28-car field, a rude awakening for former factory Holden drivers who have, between them, won a V8 championship, three Bathurst 1000s and made regular appearances on the podium.

Rebranded Nissan Motorsport, the family owned Kelly Racing team’s best result so far this season was a strong seventh for Rick in one of the four races at Pukekohe, near Auckland, last month.

The Altima V8 racer, which uses a production-based V8 against Ford’s and Holden’s bespoke competition engines, is trailing in straight-line speed in the early stages of its development.

While Kelly accepts that qualifying near the back of the grid and racing in the midfield is inevitable in the early stages of the development of a new entry, he admitted that the experience has been frustrating.

”I built myself up mentally to go out and have a shot at being at the front,” he said.

”And so when the reality hit that we were behind in a couple of areas and needed to develop the engine, it hit me hard personally. It really, really hit hard to know that I’d turn up to the events and only sneak into the top 10 if I did a fantastic result. That was tough.

”That knocked me down for probably six weeks. It was just hurting because you want to win. It’s a great sport when you have the opportunity to win, but when you haven’t – if you really, truly give a shit about it – that definitely hurts.

”I’m not capable of just shrugging it off. It really did hit hard. You just have to go back and reassess everything and make plans to turn it around. It took a little time to get back my A-game.” Although a breakthrough top-three result is unlikely at the Circuit Of The Americas, which features a horsepower-dependent steep climb to the first turn, Kelly is confident the Altima’s sharp-handling chassis will be in its element in the twisting second half of the 3.7-kilometre track.

”If we do a good job, we should be able to sneak ourselves into the top 10 – and, really, for where we’re at in the early stage of our development program, that’s pretty good,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲学校.

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