Todd Hazelwood says he was relieved to start the 2019 Supercars season strongly in Adelaide, including his maiden ARMOR ALL Top 10 Shootout berth, after a torrid rookie campaign.
One of five newcomers in Supercars in 2018, the Matt Stone Racing driver finished 26th and last of the full-timers in the championship.
That was also MSR's main game debut, which started with an unfamiliar ex-DJR Team Penske Falcon that was parked mid-year in favour of Hazelwood's Super2 title-winning Triple Eight VF Commodore.
The squad has taken on Jamie Whincup's 2018 ZB Commodore this year and formed a customer relationship with Triple Eight.
Hazelwood raced from 21st to 12th in Saturday's Superloop Adelaide 500 race, equalling his best solo Supercars race result at the time.
On the Sunday, he qualified ahead of Whincup and contested a Shootout for the first time, ultimately finishing 10th in a key confidence boost.
"We're pretty relieved," Hazelwood said.
"We've put a lot of work in the hard season and the off-season and for it all to come together and pay off is the ultimate reward for the whole team at MSR.
"Last year was pretty bruising for me. But at the same time I learned a lot over the off-season, and I had a good time to reflect on what I needed to work on.
"I feel that this weekend, everything that I've put into place is starting to come off.
"I just can't thank everyone enough behind the scenes for helping me make this happen."
Hazelwood and MSR had a day of running with the new Commodore last December, and then tackled the Phillip Island pre-season test.
The 23-year-old is relishing the upgraded package, and leaves the season opener 13th in the points.
"We had a great test day at Phillip Island and we came out of the day feeling pretty refreshed," he said.
"It was just awesome to be working with something that's making sense for us and making changes and moving forward.
"This weekend we rolled out of the truck in a pretty reasonable position and everything that we understand is making sense of this car and it's really helping us develop the car over the course of the weekend."
The Adelaide event is Hazelwood's home race, and his star turn on Sunday followed a 3am finish helping MSR after the opening race.
Hazelwood qualified seventh, having only started better than 20th once throughout 2018.
"I had a pretty big crack," he said of the Shootout lap.
"I was pretty happy with my lap, unfortunately the time didn't really show it, but we'd just been struggling to get the tyre to turn on the first half of the lap, so I think we did the best with what we had.
"It was weird because I've done a lot of things my racing career but I've never done a one-lap dash, and I've never done it in-front of a crowd.
"To do it in-front of the home crowd here in Adelaide was even sweeter.
"It took a while for me to get my head around what I was preparing myself for, a really cool moment nonetheless."