Novocastrian Motorsport's Aaren Russell claimed his first race and round podium finishes in the Dunlop V8 Supercar Series, during a breakthrough weekend at Queensland Raceway in Round 5 of the 2014 series.
Russell kept his head to finish a fine second in Saturday's chaotic opening race, and eighth in Sunday's reverse grid Race 2 was enough to secure third for the weekend and move up to 10th in the standings. The result was also the team's first round podium in the category, while Russell's previous-best race and round results were fourth and fifth at Townsville in 2013.
"It's a weekend I'll never forget; hopefully it's the first of many podiums for the team and I," Russell said.
"I didn't really know what to do on the podium, but champagne has never tasted so good, and next time I'll be better prepared!
"This result is really a credit to our entire team. We're competing with a lot of bigger outfits with newer cars, so to show what we're capable of and come away with a podium is a fantastic reward for all of their hard work over the years. I'm stoked for them, and in particular my Dad, who was at home sick this weekend but has been everything to my career so far."
Driving the Northside Fire Service / Go Karts Go Falcon, Russell set the tone for a strong weekend with fourth in Friday practice, before qualifying eighth, just over 0.5s from pole in the competitive field.
In Race 1, Russell ended an action-packed opening lap in fifth, then moved up to second when he dodged a three-car incident on Lap 5. After another late Safety Car period, the 22-year-old followed former Bathurst 1000 winner Paul Dumbrell home to secure his best-ever Dunlop Series result, in the category's milestone 250th race.
"We've been on the wrong end of some things this year, so I'm not going to complain about getting a little bit of luck," Russell said.
"Even when we got up to second, there was still almost 20 laps to go, and a lot of fast guys in fast cars behind me. We had good pace ourselves, we set the third-fastest lap of the race, so to stay out of trouble and bring it home in second was incredibly satisfying."
With the Top 10 inverted for Sunday's second race, Russell started ninth on the grid. From there, he secured third for the weekend with an eighth-place finish, moving from 12th to 10th in the series standings in the process.
The 2014 Dunlop Series continues at Mount Panorama on 9-11 October, with a newly-announced 250km race supporting the Bathurst 1000.
"After Saturday's big result, I knew it was important to finish the job on Sunday with another good run," Russell said.
"We couldn't quite make as much progress as we'd hoped, but at the same time we had an eye on the round points and wanted to make sure we kept it clean and finished on the podium. We were able to do that, so it was mission accomplished.
"For these two rounds in Queensland, we've had great support from Paul Morris and his team on the Gold Coast. To say it's been appreciated would be an understatement, so I'd like to thank them as we head back to Newcastle.
"It's going to be a long two months until Bathurst, but I'm already looking forward to getting there and hopefully having another strong weekend."
Novocastrian Motorsport is proudly supported by Go Karts Go, Hunter Kitchen King, Valvoline, Century Batteries, Steve Koulis Smash Repairs and Northside Fire Service.