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From Young Lion to one of the sport's youngest champions and its youngest-ever Bathurst 1000 winner, Rick Kelly was always on the fast track for success.
With six full V8 Supercar seasons under his belt, Kelly, at the ripe age of 26, is a seasoned veteran although still regarded by many as one of the "young guns" of the sport. Emulating the meteoric rise of his older brother, Todd, the Mildura-born ace was runner-up in the 2000 Formula Ford championship in his first full season of racing, going one better the following year in the Formula Holden championship with a dominant performance that earned him the coveted CAMS Gold Star Award.
Like his brother before him, Kelly was signed to Holden's Young Lions program and after joining Kmart Racing for the 2001 endurance races, completed his first full season in V8 Supercars in 2002 under the Young Lions banner, in the process winning the series Rookie Of The Year award.
Returning to Kmart Racing in 2003, he joined Greg Murphy for an emphatic victory in the Bathurst 1000, stamping himself, at the age of 20, as the youngest-ever winner of The Great Race.
Better was to come in 2004 as Kelly forged his first solo round victory in driving rain at Eastern Creek, and took pole position at Sandown before he and Murphy again teamed up to seal back-to-back Bathurst victories.
As Kmart Racing became the HSV Dealer Team in 2005, and Garth Tander joined to replace the departing Murphy, the team had a difficult time coming to terms with their VZ Commodores. Kelly's pole position at Clipsal 500 was a highlight in an otherwise forgettable first half of the season before showing glimpses of form in the season's latter stages.
2006 was a watershed year for both team and drivers, as Kelly and Tander swapped the championship lead until Tander hit a horror stretch in the enduro races, while Kelly and brother Todd teamed to finish runners-up in both enduros. The title race came down to Kelly and Ford rival Craig Lowndes in the season's final outing, a contentious touch between the two ensuring that Kelly's title will be talked about for years to come.
In 2007 Kelly was again a strong contender, with a round win at the Clipsal 500, but faded over the final rounds to finish fourth behind eventual champion, Tander. In 2008 he faced similar dramas with consistent mechanical failures and extensive personnel changes, yet despite the distractions Rick still managed to win the final ever race at Oran Park, coinciding with his final race under the Walkinshaw umbrella.
Debuting the Kelly Racing/Jack Daniel's Racing team with brother Todd in 2009 was a new phase in Rick Kelly's racing career. A challenging, yet highly successful year followed, with Rick and the team showing great promise from their very first event at the Clipsal 500. It wasn't long before Rick was battling for a podium which finally came at the second Phillip Island event in November.
Rick's focus on his fitness, training, and car development will ensure that he will once again soar to the top of the tables in 2010.