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Courtney rewards Johnson with Townsville win
12 July 2009
James Courtney gave his boss Dick Johnson a big reward on Sunday when he came through to win the second V8 Supercar race of the inaugural Dunlop Townsville 500 in North Queensland.
Earlier this year Johnson had been named one of Queensland's top 150 'icons' as part of the state's 150-year celebrations, but today his driver gave him a thrill just as big by taking the 'gold' medal.
Johnson has been a huge advocate of a race in Townsville and poured a lot of effort into securing the race for North Queensland. He then played a critical role in the location, design and development of the track.
Today he saw his man dominated the race in his Jim Beam Racing entry to record the second race win of his V8 Supercar career and be the third different winner in three races. Courtney achieved his result in front of a crowd of 59,984 fans, giving the inaugural event a three-day total of 168,057.
In comparison, the now highly-successful Clipsal 500 had a first year total crowd of 162,000 in 1999 - this year, that event's crowd was 272,800.
Courtney qualified fourth for today's race behind Toll Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander and Will Davison and Team Vodafone's Jamie Whincup.
Courtney took the lead on lap 29 when he beat Whincup out of the pits after a safety car period and was never headed from there.
A late safety car period closed up a well-earned 3.3-second gap, but the former F1 test driver kept his cool and beat Whincup, Tander and Davison to the line.
Courtney's JBR teammate Steve Johnson was fifth to give the Gold Coast-based team something further to cheer about.
Whincup's result improved his position as Championship leader with a total of 1560 points to Davison's 1386. They are followed by Tander (1212), Craig Lowndes (1110) and Steve Johnson (1050).
Today was just reward for Courtney and the Jim Beam Racing team, which has had an enormous amount of bad luck and disappointment this season.
“This is just brilliant,” said Dick Johnson, who was one of the original instigators of the Townsville race more than 10 years ago.
“The real winner of this whole deal has been Townsville, but it's onwards and upwards for us from here.
“To be named as one of Queensland's irons in the 150-year celebrations was a real honour and to have James win this race today is a big bonus. We have a couple of more events in Queensland this year, so hopefully we can keep the momentum going and take home a trophy from those as well.”
Courtney started the season with a massive crash in Adelaide, which badly damaged a brand new car. Apart from a solid result in New Zealand, the year has produced few things to cheer about.
That run of luck continued yesterday when he was leading the race early and had a engine let go after just seven laps.
He went into today's race with a great tyre package because of yesterday's drama and he made full use of it.
“We came straight off the back off the truck at the start of the weekend and the car was on fire and it makes my job so much easier for the weekend when the car is like that and I didn't have to push hard,” said Courtney.
“We were never really worried about our race pace and it was great to repay the boys at Jim Beam Racing with a race win because it's been a long time coming.
“Jamie (Whincup) pushed me all the way and we had a bit of a race in the pit stop as well.
“Our focus is really on more race wins and Bathurst now so I think Jamie (Whincup) and Craig (Lowndes) have won enough (three straight Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000s) and they should let someone else have a go.”
Whincup was obviously pleased to extend his championship lead, but like all drivers would have liked to have finished one place higher.
“I was trying to catch James (Courtney) and get that number one position. We got a fairly early indication that James's race pace was fast. It was all about track position for us,” said Whincup.
“The second stop, we've got a new lollypop guy and he's South African and he was saying go and I thought he was saying no so there was a bit of indecision.”
Tander emphasised the championship was for far from over and could well and truly be decided in the final round at the new Telstra Sydney 500 in December.
“We had fantastic pace at the end and that was probably the story of both our races over the weekend. I got stuck behind Todd Kelly for a long time after one of the restarts and Jamie got away,” said Tander.
“Thankfully there was a safety car at the end and I was able to put a bit of pressure on Jamie but I wasn't going to compromise third.”
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