Rick Kelly took victory in the wet in the first of this weekend's Sandown V8 Supercar races, as points leader Jamie Whincup tumbled back to 13th place and lost ground to title rival Craig Lowndes.
That championship twist had looked highly unlikely after qualifying, when Whincup had joined Kelly on the front row and his Triple Eight Holden teammate Lowndes had struggled to 27th. But while Whincup quickly recovered from fourth to second following a slow start, as the race progressed he steadily lost ground, dropping back at restarts particularly in an event that featured three safety car interruptions. He admitted afterward that the ever-worsening conditions had made him very uneasy.
By the end, he was down to 13th, whereas Lowndes made relentless progress up the order and got into sixth by the finish. They are now 158 points apart in the standings.
At the front, Kelly was always in control, staying sufficiently clear of James Courtney as the Holden Racing Team driver gained pace in the second half of the race, and eventually winning by four seconds despite two late safety cars bunching the field up again.
To complete a great day for the Kelly family and their team, Rick's brother Todd battled past Will Davison (Ford Performance Racing) to secure third on the final lap, with Shane van Gisbergen taking fifth for Stone Brothers Ford.