Claims that Craig Lowndes has been “pushed” into Supercars retirement have been dismissed by his Holden team boss ahead of this weekend’s Ipswich round.
Three-time touring car champion Lowndes will be sentimental favourite at his 22nd and final Ipswich event after dropping the bombshell two weeks ago that this season would be his last as a full-time driver.
Lowndes has a record 12 wins at Ipswich and will be looking for lucky No.13 this weekend at the SuperSprint as he begins his final curtain call.
However, Lowndes’ abrupt announcement in Townsville sparked rumours the 44-year-old was pressured into retirement by his team Red Bull Racing.
Fellow Supercars driver David Reynolds even put it on record, telling Fox Motorsport podcast that six-time Bathurst 1000 winner Lowndes was pushed by RBR.
“It’s so clear he is being half-pushed out, or pushed out entirely,” reigning Bathurst champ Reynolds said.
But RBR boss Roland Dane fired up over the suggestion before practice for the Ipswich SuperSprint began on Friday.
“To be honest, I couldn’t care less what everyone else thinks about it,” he told Fox Sports.
“Craig and I know the decision that he made, that I completely agree with and that I think was the right decision to make.
“He knows the facts. I know the facts.
“The only thing that really matters to me is ensuring that Craig is able to step out with his head held high.”
Lowndes will switch to a co-driver enduro role next Supercars season while expected to juggle duties as a TV commentator and dabbling in the GT category with a rumoured debut at the famous Le Mans 24 Hour race in 2019.
Dane said they had not worked out whether they would even replace Lowndes and run a third car next year.
Supercars stars Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen drive the other RBR entries.
“Again, I see all the keyboard warriors making their own minds up about what we are or aren’t doing,” Dane said.
“I can promise you that we have not made a decision yet on whether we’ll run two, three or four cars next year.”
Lowndes – fifth in the championship standings – last tasted victory at Ipswich in 2016.
He just missed the podium at the last round in Townsville, finishing fourth in both races.
Lowndes and Garth Tander are the only drivers to have raced at all 21 previous Ipswich rounds.
Ford’s Scott McLaughlin leads the championship with 2,033 points, just 131 ahead of van Gisbergen with Reynolds third.