Jason Bright and Todd Kelly will both step back from full-time racing after this weekend’s Supercars Championship finale in Newcastle.
Bright (pictured above), a 19-year veteran of the series, is nearing the end of his first season in a two-year-deal with Prodrive, and had been at the center of a silly season swirl involving drivers and Racing Entitlement Contracts (RECs) – the latter being similar to NASCAR’s Charters.
The 44-year-old owns his own REC, which he brought across to Prodrive from Brad Jones Racing. However, Prodrive is expected to purchase an additional REC of its own from Lucas Dumbrell Racing during the off-season so that it has full control over its four-car squad.
Coupled with that is the expectation that Richie Stanaway will join the team full-time for 2018 – a deal that effectively leaves Bright without a ride.
“This year has been flat-out with racing, my business and my family,” Bright told the official series website. “I was expecting it to be two years here [at Prodrive], but if that opportunity wasn’t going to be there I wasn’t going to bust my balls to be on the grid, so I’d decided a little while ago I’d step aside.”
Bright made his series debut in 1997, and won Bathurst the following year with Stone Brothers Racing. He was a factory driver for both Holden and Ford at various points in his career, picking up 20 wins and 17 poles along the way. He also raced in Indy Lights in 2000, and made cameos in Champ Car [with Della Penna at Surfers Paradise] and the ALMS [with Panoz in Adelaide] that same year. He intends to continue racing as a co-driver in the endurance events.
Kelly, 38 (pictured above at Bathurst earlier this year), is also a former Bathurst winner, claiming the 2005 event for the Holden Racing Team alongside Mark Skaife. Aligned with Holden for much of his career, he founded his own team Kelly Racing in 2009, which switched badges and became Nissan Motorsport Australia in 2013. A 19-time race winner, Kelly said that his decision to step back was due to a chronic knee injury.
“I’ve had knee surgery twice this year, and it’s been a decent battle,” said Kelly. “Although, there have been positives for having a dodgy knee. I had gone 20 years without perfecting left-foot braking, and at Sydney Motorsports Park this year I had to left-foot brake all weekend. By the end of the weekend, I’d got pretty good at it. But in such a competitive sport that’s not something you want to develop during an event.
“To have a 20-year career doing something you love is pretty special. It’s been a long, solid and clean career of being a professional driver. And even though I would probably change a few things if I had my time again, there’s not anything I regret over that period.”
Kelly’s departure opens up a vacancy at Nissan alongside his brother Rick, Michael Caruso and Simona de Silvestro, although as team co-owner, he intends to maintain a regular presence in the garage. Going to an event and not jumping in the car will take a lot of getting used to,” he said. “We’ve spent a great deal of time getting good people into roles within the team, and I’ve spent my whole driving life in a car on the other end of the headset. So I don’t see myself putting the headsets on now taking over other people’s roles in the team.
“But I certainly have a keen eye for detail, whether it be from car prep to the engineering of the cars. That would be an area I’d like to put a lot of focus in, especially with the driver line-up we’ll have next year. With Simona completing 12 months and progressing extremely well, this would allow me to put a bit more time to oversee how she is going.”