A front-running day for a “smart” Zak Best has impressed Tickford Racing boss Tim Edwards.
Best converted a shock ARMOR ALL Pole into fifth in the OTR SuperSprint opener.
The 20-year-old is midway through his second wildcard weekend for Tickford.
Best vowed to make his presence felt in Tailem Bend, having been beaten around in Darwin.
He stood up on Saturday at The Bend, running in the top 10 in every session.
Best won the start and kept a clean nose, and raced cleanly with eventual winner Shane van Gisbergen.
Van Gisbergen later praised Best, with Edwards saying his young charge did everything that was asked of him.
It comes as Best fights to secure a place on the 2023 grid, with Tickford running four full-time cars.
“The instruction we gave him was to go fast and keep it clean,” Edwards told Supercars.com.
“He’s not fighting those guys for a championship.
“The best way to demonstrate his ability is to be solid and consistent.
“Don’t do anything stupid, don’t cause any chaos.
“He did everything we asked of him.”
Speculation over tyre batch cast a pall over Best’s performance, but the driver himself let his driving do the talking.
Prior to the race, engineer Dilan Talabani attributed the shock pole to Best putting in the cleanest lap of all.
Best’s biggest concern was getting his car off the line, which he did.
It wasn’t without nerves, with Best investigated for a false start.
“I still had to do my job,” Best told Supercars.com.
“I was super nervous getting it off the line.
“I got Shane off the line; he squeezed me a bit and Cam got through.
“I might have cooked my tyres a bit in the high-speed stuff.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have anyone to follow.
Van Gisbergen passes Best
“I was a sitting duck.”
Edwards reiterated that the tyre chatter did little to distract Best, who crossed the line behind teammate Cam Waters.
Waters survived a mid-race clash with Anton De Pasquale, who dropped to ninth.
“[Fellow wildcard] Jordan Boys had the same tyres, and he was 1.1 seconds further back,” Edwards said.
“Everyone’s pre-marked them from all over the place. Zak was quick from the word go.
“He didn’t put a foot wrong. He was very smart in how he drove today.”
Cars will return to the track for dual qualifying sessions at 9:35am local time.