Event: UNOH 200 (Race 17 of 23), 200 Laps – 55/55/90; 100.6 Miles
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (0.533-mile oval)
Date/Broadcast: Aug. 15, 2019 at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
What You Need to Know:
Raphael Lessard will make his third and final NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series start for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in 2019 piloting the No. 46 Spectra Premium/FRL Express Tundra at Bristol Motor Speedway Friday. While his first two Gander Trucks starts came at tracks that he had never made a lap at before, Lessard is no stranger to the high banks of Bristol. The talented Canadian led a race-high 55 laps en route to victory in the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol last May driving KBM’s famed No. 51 Super Late Model. Fellow Canadian and Gander Trucks regular Stewart Friesen finished second in the event. Lessard also won the pole and his heat race in the inaugural Short Track U.S. Nationals in 2017 before going on to finish 15th. Most recently, he came from the 17th starting position to finish ninth in the K&N Pro Series East race at the half-mile concrete oval in April.
Lessard also participated in a two-day rookie test working with members of the No. 4 team at Bristol in April. Over the course of the test, he made over 300 laps around the half-mile oval. Marcus Richmond, who was the crew chief of the No. 4 team at the time, will guide Lessard and the No. 46 team at Bristol on Thursday.The veteran crew chief has collected 10 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series victories with six different drivers (Ty Dillon, Noah Gragson, Kevin Harvick, Timothy Peters, Johnny Sauter and Dennis Setzer) across 275 career starts atop the pit box. Richmond’s drivers have combined for one top-five and six top-10 finishes across 12 starts at Dover. Richmond guided Todd Gilliland to a fifth-place finish in last year’s Gander Trucks race at Bristol.
The 18-year-old Canadian driver had a solid Gander Trucks series debut for KBM in March at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. He earned the seventh starting position, completed all 250 laps and brought his Toyota home in the 14th position. The talented teenager also qualified seventh and finished 11th for KBM at Dover and then got behind the wheel of the No. 17 Toyota for DGR Crosley at Iowa Speedway in Newton and finished ninth.
In addition to his part-time Gander Truck Series schedule, Lessard has also raced limited schedules across several other series this season. He has made two NASCAR Pinty’s Series starts, leading a race-high 153 laps en route to victory in his series debut at Autodrome Chaudiere in Vallee-Jonction Quebec on June 29 and most recently he came from the 15th position to finish seventh in his first road course start Aug. 11 at Circuit de Trois-Rivieres in Quebec. Lessard has also recoded 83 laps led, two top-five and three top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 5.7 across three ARCA Menards Series races. He has also gotten behind the wheel in both the Super Late Models and Dirt Sportsman at Autodrome Chaudiere, his hometown track.
As part of its partnership with TRD regarding the development of heat transfer units built to high-performance motorsports vehicles specifications, Spectra Premium will serve as the primary sponsor on Lessard’s Tundra for his three-race Gander Trucks schedule in 2019. Based in Boucherville, Que., Spectra Premium is a North American automotive, light and heavy-duty truck parts manufacturer for the heating & cooling, fuel delivery and engine management systems. Since November 2018, Spectra Premium has become one of the few Approved Radiator Suppliers under NASCAR’s technical specifications for the Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Spectra Premium cooling system engineers honed their stock-car racing expertise in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, the highest national stock-car series in Canada, in which the radiator provided convincing results after only two years on the tracks.
With already having experience in other series at Bristol, is this the most comfortable you’ve been going into a Gander Trucks race?
“Oh yeah — for sure. We went there last year with Kyle Busch Motorsports in a Super Late Model and we won. I ran the K&N race this year and I tested two days with the No. 4 team with Marcus Richmond — who will be my crew chief this week. We got along really well and I think he is going to be able to help me with all of his experience. I’m excited that for once I’m not racing at a race track that I don’t know in the Truck Series. I know this race track pretty well — it’s going to help me a lot. I’m excited and I think it’s going to be an awesome weekend.”
What has it been like racing limited schedules in a lot of different series?
“It’s been pretty good — I feel like I’ve learned a lot throughout the season racing different cars every week. I think that I’m going to be able to apply some things that I’ve learned in some of the cars that I’ve driven. If it’s a Late Model, a NASCAR Pinty’s, a NASCAR Truck, I’m going to be able to apply it this weekend. Hopefully we can get the Spectra Premium Toyota Tundra good and bring it to victory lane.”
Raphael Lessard Career Highlights
Led a race-high 153 laps en route to victory in his NASCAR Pinty’s Series debut at Autodrome Chaudiere in Vallee-Jonction Quebec on June 29 and most recently came from the 15th position to finish seventh in his first road course start Aug. 11 at Circuit de Trois-Rivieres in Quebec.
Has collected 83 laps led and an average finish of 10.3 across three career ARCA Racing Series starts
Won two marquee events driving KBM’s famed No. 51 Super Late Model in 2018; the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in May and the Red Bud 400 ARCA/CRA Super Series race at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway in July.
Overall in 16 starts for KBM split across the CARS Super Late Model Tour, the Southern Super Series and the ARCA/CRA Super Series, the talented teenager posted two wins, three poles, seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 2018.
Captured the 2016 CARS Super Late Model Tour championship after recording four wins, one pole, 157 laps led, eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes across 10 races. He also finished inside the top-10 in three premiere events that year; the All-American 400, the Winchester 400 and the Snowball Derby.
Raphael Lessard’s No. 46 Spectra Premium/FRL Express Tundra:
KBM-52: The Spectra Premium/FRL Express team will unload KBM-52 for Thursday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol. The Tundra has an average finish of 7.0 across seven career starts, with a best result of second coming with Kyle Busch behind the wheel in its debut at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City in 2018. Todd Gilliland piloted this Toyota to a top-10 finish in all three of its starts in 2019, most recently finishing sixth at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
KBM-52 Performance Profile:
KBM Notes of Interest
KBM drivers have collected three wins, four poles, 534 laps led, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 13.1 across 21 starts at Bristol.
Owner-driver Kyle Busch has collected all three of his organization’s victories at the half-mile oval, winning the Gander Trucks race as a part of his historic Bristol Sweeps in 2010 and 2017 and he also won the 2013 event.
KBM holds the NGOTS records for most career wins (74) and most wins in a single season (14 in 2014). In addition to collecting a series-record six Owner’s Championships, the organization has produced two championship-winning drivers; Erik Jones (2015) and Christopher Bell (2017).
The No. 46 team has recorded one win, one pole, 147 laps led, three top-five and nine top-10 finishes across 15 starts while competing in a part-time schedule with multiple drivers the last three seasons. Owner-driver Kyle Busch captured the pole and led a race-high 109 laps en route to the No. 46’s inaugural victory at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in August of 2017.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!