While the V8 Supercars Championship will be staging its first event on United States soil, the team's four Nissan Altima V8 Supercars will be a familiar sight to American race fans.
The USA is regarded as the 'home' of the Nissan Altima. The mid-sized sedan is one of the best-selling vehicles on the American market, with over 300,000 sold in 2012. The American version of the Altima is built at Nissan's production facility in Smyrna, near Nashville, Tennessee. The Altima will go on-sale in Australia for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Nissan Motorsport's two naming-rights partners – Jack Daniel's and Norton – are both based in the United States, and the team is looking to impress in front of its 'local' supporters.
Jack Daniel's, the famous whiskey sponsor of Todd and Rick Kelly's Nissan Altimas, originates from Lynchburg, Tennessee, while Symantec, the parent company of Norton, is based in Los Angeles, California.
The four-car Nissan Motorsport team has shown encouraging signs in the past two events, with the team taking seven top 10 results at Pukekohe, New Zealand, and Barbagallo Raceway, Perth.
Norton 360 Racing's James Moffat has proved to be the best of the Nissan quartet after four events. The Victorian currently sits 13th in the V8 Supercars Championship.
The Austin 400 at the Circuit of Americas track in Texas will see the V8 Supercars compete in four 100km races. Each race will include a compulsory pit stop.
Track action kicks-off on Friday, May 17, with qualifying and racing to be held on Saturday and Sunday.
NISSAN MOTORSPORT – DRIVER QUOTES
Todd Kelly – #7 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima:
"It has always been a dream of mine to race in America, and for the life of me, I never thought we'd have the opportunity to take our own cars over there," said Todd Kelly.
"It's huge for an Australian category to be racing in that part of the world where motorsports is so massive. I feel very lucky and I can't wait to get over there.
"We're in the backyard of our biggest partners, with Jack Daniel's just up the road and Nissan's plant that builds the Altimas there as well. There'll be a lot of interest and support from those guys.
"They'll be a bit of pressure, and as always, we'll be pushing as hard as we can to get the cars up the front."
Rick Kelly – #15 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima:
"This is one of the most exciting events that I can remember. We're always excited to go to Clipsal at the start of each year, and Bathurst is always great, but personally, I've always wanted to race in North America," said Rick Kelly.
"It's a dream come true for us to race over there. I'm already sad that it's going to be over in a week's time!
"We've got great business partners who have a huge presence in the United States, being Jack Daniel's and Nissan. We get to go over a couple of days early to visit the factories of both companies and it will really make for a great time.
"I'm very focused on improving our results. We had James (Moffat) do a great job in Perth, really setting the bar. That's great for us because it pushes us to lift the bar up to where he is. That is creating a really great environment in our team."
Michael Caruso – #36 Norton 360 Nissan Altima:
"I've raced in America before as a 14-year-old in the North American Karting Championships. I won the title that year (1997), and for me, it was an amazing experience," said Caruso.
"They definitely know how to go motor racing in America, and I'm looking forward to getting over there again and experiencing something new.
"It's pretty cool to be a part of the V8 Supercars racing in North America, especially with Nissan in what is the 'home' of the Altima. It's great that we get the opportunity to race in front to a crowd where the car is pretty well known.
"We definitely have the ingredients with the Altima, and we're improving all the time. That improvement showed on Sunday when I was running with Moffat, but unfortunately, the mistake in the pit stops cost us.
"I feel that it's just a matter of time until we get a good string of results together and start improving our championship position."
James Moffat – #360 Norton 360 Nissan Altima:
"I'm really looking forward to racing in North America. Clearly it's very exciting that our category is going over there in what is NASCAR heartland," Moffat said.
"This is V8 Supercars' chance to show the Americans 'saloon' car racing that isn't on ovals. That should be pretty cool.
"My only American experience has been sitting on a beach at Waikiki. Personally, I'm looking forward to going over there and doing some sight-seeing.
"We're definitely still in the early days of development in the Altima, so it's encouraging that there's lots of potential in the car and we know there's lots of improvements to come."
AUSTIN 400 SCHEDULE (All times USCDT – Local Austin Time)
10:10 - Practice 1
11:40 - Practice 2
14:55 - Practice 3
16:15 - Practice 4
11:05 - Qualifying Race 13
11:30 - Qualifying Race 14
15:15 - Race 13
17:00 - Race 14
11:05 - Qualifying Race 15
11:30 - Qualifying Race 16
15:15 - Race 15
17:00 - Race 16
2013 V8 SUPERCARS CHAMPIONSHIP
Driver Points Standings after Race 12
1. Jamie Whincup 958
2. Will Davison 893
3. Craig Lowndes 843
4. Jason Bright 797
5. Shane Van Gisbergen 720
6. Fabian Coulthard 712
7. Garth Tander 689
8. James Courtney 674
9. Mark Winterbottom 666
10. Scott McLaughlin 589
13. James Moffat 513 (#360 Norton 360 Nissan Altima)
16. Rick Kelly 468 (#15 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima)
22. Michael Caruso 336 (#36 Norton 360 Nissan Altima)
26. Todd Kelly 245 (#7 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima)