Dunlop Series rookie Todd Hazelwood didn't believe team manager Matt Stone when he found out Steven Johnson would be joining Matt Stone Racing at this weekend's Castrol Townsville 500 - Driven by TAFE Queensland.
Johnson joins the Dunlop Series this weekend to get crucial seat time ahead of the Pirtek EnduroCup when he will pair up with Dick Johnson Racing's David Wall. He is just one of a number of Dunlop Series competitors who will play the critical co-driver role during the three endurance events later this season.
Hazelwood is a self-confessed Dick Johnson Racing fan from his childhood years and says having Johnson as a teammate is ironic and exciting.
"It's pretty special for me to have Steven Johnson drive alongside me because he was the driver I admired most growing up. I was certainly surprised when Matt Stone dropped the bombshell on me!" Hazelwood said.
"I used to line up to get his autograph and send him fan latters and now I'm going to be sharing a garage with him.
"I think it will be really beneficial having him in the team because he has a lot of experience and I can learn a lot from him. I'm really looking forward to sharing data with him and hopefully he can give me some tips on how I can improve as a driver."
The 18-year old had a career best weekend at the last Dunlop Series round, the Perth 400, picking up two fifth place race finishes and an overall round position of fourth.
Like Andre Heimgartner, Hazelwood puts his new-found pace to improvements in braking performance - having made the transition to a smaller master brake cylinder heading into the event.
A test day last Wednesday has left Hazelwood feeling confident ahead of Townsville with aspirations to remain in the top 10and goals to refine his driving style further.
"There's no reason we can't be in the top 10," Hazelwood told v8supercars.com.au.
"I'd like to be a top five runner but it will be a tough weekend because I've never races at Townsville and a lot of the other guys have a few years' experience there.
"There's at least 15 different drivers who deserve to be in the top five and everyone will be approaching the weekend differently. Some guys are coming off a bad weekend in Perth, others are trying to get recognised.
"I'm just trying to focus on my own race, bank as many points as I can and stay as the highest placed rookie. I've definitely got more confidence in myself under brakes which means I have a better shot at passing."
The rookie has also picked up support of Mackay based Advanced Cutting Solutions and Brisbane's City Generators for the Townsville and Coates Hire Ipswich 400.
Hazelwood heads to Townsville in ninth position in the overall standings - 272 points off Championship leader Ash Walsh, who will co-drive for DJR later this year alongside Scott Pye.
The 30 car field will contest two 29-lap races at theCastrol Townsville 500 - Driven by TAFE Queensland this weekend.