PURNIM formula 500 driver Chris Bellman almost crashed out on the first corner before driving to victory at Simpson Speedway.
Bellman, 18, won round three of the Victorian Stampede Series on Saturday night, defeating James Aranyosi and Shane Van Duynhoven.
The meeting essentially marked the season-opener after rain washed out the first two rounds at Portland and Avalon.
Bellman won both his heats — coming from seventh in the first one — and started from pole for the 20-lap A main.
But he almost came to grief on the first corner after riding a wheel of Steve Horton, who was also off the front row.
He somehow maintained his spot in front, where he stayed despite two flags — one red, one yellow — briefly halting proceedings.
“After I rode his wheel the car popped right up, did a big mono,” Bellman said.
“I didn’t lose any spots, which surprised me because I felt I lost a lot of ground. But it held a few blokes up.”
“Speedweek isn’t a massive priority, we’ll take it as it comes. We won’t go to all the rounds but we’ll go to the tracks we like best."
Bellman praised the work of crew chief Chad Sullivan, who set up the car well to handle the challenging track.
“He set the car up so well. All I was doing was hanging on to it, the car did a lot of it for me,” he said.
“It was very demanding and rough down one end and slick down the other, two different surfaces on the one track.”
The victory marks the best-possible start for Bellman and comes after a breakout rookie season last summer.
He finished second in the seven-round Speedweek, behind Queenslander Nathan Pronger, despite his comparable inexperience.
Bellman said he was unlikely to contest every Speedweek and Stampede Series round this campaign.
But the Victorian title at Simpson in January and the Australian title in Perth in March are firmly on the agenda.
“Speedweek isn’t a massive priority, we’ll take it as it comes. We won’t go to all the rounds but we’ll go to the tracks we like best,” he said.
“Hopefully get to some good tracks we like, try some new things and learn about the car a bit more, how it works and what I like as a driver.”
Meanwhile, in-form Mount Gambier driver Steven Lines continued his dominance of the Sprintcar Racing Association of Victoria series at Avalon.
Lines claimed his third consecutive win in the series, and seventh for the season, by dominating round four at Avalon on Saturday night.
He finished fifth and first in his two heats, won the pole shootout and beat home Shaun Dobson, James McFadden and John Vogels in the A main.
Other notable performances came from Kyle Hirst. The Californian started out of five in the C main and finished eighth in the A main.
Lines’ win has lifted him to second on the overall SRA Victoria series standings, behind Dubbo pacesetter Jeremy Cross.
Lines has 1197 points, behind Cross on 1379.