NEWLY-crowned South West Conveyancing Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic champion Lachlan McHugh hopes the "biggest achievement of my life so far" will help him on the American circuit.
The Queenslander, still only 23, showed character and determination to win Australia's most illustrious race in a non-stop marathon at Premier Speedway on Sunday night.
"I don't think it's fully sunk in yet; there's too much stuff going on but it's definitely the biggest achievement of my life so far, so I am pumped," he told The Standard as he walked past fans back to the pits.
"It is the biggest race in Australia and it's the one everyone wants to win and it's cool to have my name on that board that will be there forever now."
McHugh started in pole position alongside Warrnambool-based driver James McFadden.
McFadden - a two-time classic champion regarded as one of the best drivers in the world - snatched front position with 35 laps to go.
But McHugh wasn't giving up. The university student, whose father Jamie was a Super Sedan champion, sat tight on McFadden's tail and reclaimed the lead with 15 laps to go and held it for the chequered flag.
McHugh, who retained concentration to grind out the 40 laps without a break, pocketed a cool $30,000 in a showcase which lasted just eight minutes and one second.
"I wasn't too worried, it was pretty early on and I thought the track was going to slow down a lot more," he said. "Then it wasn't going away, I went after him and managed to get back past him in lap traffic. It was a pretty fun race.
"I was a bit buggered by the end of the race and it was a pretty slicked up track which always makes it a bit harder as well. I am just pumped to win the classic. It's pretty cool."
It capped a dream weekend for McHugh, who also clinched first in the Friday qualifying A-Main.
He thanked his parents and racing connections, including team principal Barry Waldron and crew chief Nick Speed.
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Warrnambool's Corey McCullagh, meanwhile, maintained his starting position of third to score a podium finish. It was his first since he won the prestigious race in 2018.
Grant Anderson, from Albury, finished fourth after winning the Saturday night feature. Warrnambool's Jamie Veal was fifth. American-based Australian Ian Madsen clocked in sixth from Tasmanian teenager Tate Frost in seventh.
American Carson Macedo came from the back of the field to snare eighth position and the hard charger award.
South Australian Ryan Jones and Queenslander and former champion Robbie Farr rounded out the top 10.
Warrnambool's Grant Stansfield enjoyed a fruitful weekend, finishing 15th in the classic and fourth in his qualifying feature on Saturday night. Allansford racer Jake Smith clocked in 16th overall.
Bobby Daly led all the way to clinch the first B-Main of the evening, holding off Smith who was involved in a nasty crash with Ross Jarred on the south bend of the track and looked to be all but finished for the night.
Smith's crew, however, worked frantically to get him back on course and he resumed to grab second place ahead of Tim Hutchins and Macedo, who also made a shock return from a collision in his heat.
South Aussie Daniel Pestka was too strong in the second B-Main, advancing alongside second-placed Matt Egel, Jackson Delamont and Brendan Quinn.
McFadden claimed the Ian Sheppard Memorial, an award given to the best driver from the Kings Challenge in Mount Gambier, Presidents Cup at Avalon and the classic weekend.
The Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic's major sponsors, South West Conveyancing, announced the 2023 edition would pay $50,000 to the winner.
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