'Pushed out': Stars fume over Craig Lowndes 'disgrace'

A fellow Supercars driver has questioned whether Craig Lowndes really wanted to retire or whether he was pushed by his team.

The six-time Bathurst 1000 champion will call time on his 21-year Supercars career at the end of the 2018 championship.

An emotional Lowndes announced earlier this mmonth that this year will be his final full-time season in the category.

The 44-year-old said he’d been discussing retirement with Triple Eight Race Engineering team boss Roland Dane for months but only came to a decision two weeks ago.

However rival driver David Reynolds isn’t so sure.

“When you watch (his retirement press conference), it’s so clear he is being half-pushed out, or pushed out entirely,” Reynolds told the FOX Motorsport Supercars Podcast.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA – JULY 06: Craig Lowndes during a press conference held to announce his retirement prior to the Supercars Townsville 400 on July 6, 2018 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

“But, just judging by his body language, by what he says, he never really said it was his own idea, he always referred to ‘Roland, the team and I’ made the decision and it was clear-cut for me.

“I’m actually a little bit disappointed, because I love Lowndesy, I think he’s great for the sport, and to see him go in this way, it’s a bit weird, ‘cos he had 18 months left on his deal.

“Honestly, I don’t know why it’s happening, it’s kind of a real head-scratcher for me and a lot of people.”

Sky News host and Supercars fan Paul Murray went one step further, labelling the situation a ‘disgrace’.

“You can join the dots by looking, obviously,” Murray also said on the podcast.

“Where was the marketing around it? Where was the ‘thank you, Lowndes’ (branding)? Instead, no, it was a shove out at the start of the round and then they hoped that the results that they got on the weekend would become the story – that’s what it became – meaning people didn’t chase, ‘what the heck is going on here?’

DARWIN, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 17: David Reynolds celebrates on the podium after winning race 16 for the Supercars Darwin Triple Crown at Hidden Valley Raceway on June 17, 2018 in Darwin, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

“I think that the biggest giveaway that what’s happened here is a massive shove is Triple Eight — like them, loath them, whatever — the one thing they are very good at is marketing.

“This is a team that if they had planned to bounce Lowndesy, or Lowndesy had decided to go, they would’ve sold T-shirts, they would’ve had a whole series of ‘thank you’ banners and stuff around Lowndes. Instead, no they didn’t.

“People were genuinely surprised because, you know, it all happens at 10 o’clock on the Friday morning; it doesn’t happen at a home track, the kids aren’t aware of it, all this stuff. And that’s all the stuff that is a sign of a shove.

“I think Triple Eight has done something pretty serious here, because Lowndes is the connection to Brock. By shooting Bambi the way that they have and to shove him under the bus the way they did, I find, is a disgrace.

“I just think that a bloke that has won this many Bathursts, who is the link back to Brock, who’s done so much for the sport, he deserves a ‘goodbye’ lap at every single track, not a few on the way out.”

Lowndes retires from full-time driving as one of the most popular and successful drivers in the championship history.

He debuted for the Holden Racing Team as an endurance driver in 1994 before making his full-time debut in 1996, winning the first of his three championships that year.

After an unsuccessful stint in Europe in 1997, Lowndes returned to HRT winning the 1998 and 1999 championships before a controversial switch to Ford in 2000.

He joined Triple Eight in 2005, claiming five Bathurst titles while with the team including a win in 2006 just weeks after mentor Peter Brock died.

with AAP