Event: Vet Tix Camping World 200 (Race 4 of 23), 130 Laps – 30/30/70; 200.02 Miles
Location: Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway (1.54-mile quad-oval)
Date/Broadcast: June 6, 2020, at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
Racing with Raphael
Raphael Lessard and the No. 4 Mobil 1 team head to Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway on Saturday for the Vet Tix Camping World 200, where the 18-year-old Canadian driver will make his first start in any series at the 1.54-mile quad-oval. Lessard has two career starts on 1.5-mile ovals, earlier this season at Las Vegas, where he started eighth but finished 30th after a late-race incident and most recently at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway where he started 20th and finished 15th. He is in his first full-time season in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and is competing for Rookie of the Year honors with veteran crew chief Mike Hillman Jr.
So far in 2020, Lessard has three starts, with an average starting position of 12.0 and an average running position of 13.2, He is currently ranked 15th in Gander Trucks driver points standings and fifth in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
Lessard made five Gander Trucks starts in 2019, three of those with Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM). Across his five starts he posted two top-10 finishes while recording an average starting position of 10.4 and average finish of 11.1.Lessard’s strongest run came in his final start of the season when he was running inside the top five with under 30 laps remaining before getting spun and relegated to a 12th-place finish.
While Lessard may be a newcomer to the Gander Trucks, Hillman Jr. has plenty of experience. The veteran crew chief has 303 Gander Truck Series starts under his belt, with 22 wins, 115 top-five and 170 top-10 finishes with drivers including Todd Bodine, Jeb Burton, Kyle Busch and last season, Harrison Burton. At Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hillman has 15 Gander Trucks starts and his drivers have earned one win, six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes, with an average start of 8.2 and an average finish of 9.5. His win came from the pole with Bodine in the 2006 event at the Georgia track.
Due to Lessard’s presence in the series, all 23 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series races this season will be broadcast throughout Canada on RDS and RDS DIRECT.
The world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, Mobil 1, features anti-wear technology that provides performance beyond our conventional motor oils. This technology allows Mobil 1 to meet or exceed the toughest standards of car builders and to provide exceptional protection against engine wear, under normal or even some of the most extreme conditions. Mobil 1 flows quickly in extreme temperatures to protect critical engine parts and is designed to maximize engine performance and help extend engine life.
Raphael Lessard, Driver Q&A
You have a couple mile-and-a-half races under your belt now. What are the biggest challenges of racing on intermediate tracks in the truck series?
“I think having two mile-and-a-half races under my belt is going to help me a lot going to Atlanta. I think the biggest challenge has been the draft in traffic, going where they’re not, and trying to pass. Passing is really hard, and you have to side draft aggressively. I feel like at Atlanta Motor Speedway that Kyle Busch Motorsports has really fast trucks the past few years there. I’m pretty sure my Mobil1 Toyota Tundra is going to be very fast this weekend.”
How hard is it to not be able to get practice time before a race at a track that is new to you?
“Not having any practice or qualifying makes it very challenging. I love being challenged. It is a little bit hard for me being a rookie and never going to those places. I feel like at Charlotte with a little bit of practice that it would’ve helped us get more grip in the truck, but it is what it is. It is the same for everyone. I try to apply everything I learn from the TRD simulator, and hopefully, we can be really fast and be in good position at the end.”
Are you expecting Atlanta to race differently than the other two mile-and-a-half tracks you’ve raced this year?
“Atlanta is going to be very different because the asphalt is very old compared to Las Vegas and Charlotte. There is not much grip it seems like. You have to find the fastest way around the racetrack – sometimes it’s the outside or sometimes it’s the bottom. I’ve studied a lot of races. I think my crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. is going to make good calls to start the race with, and we are going to have a great Mobil1 Toyota Tundra. I’m just really excited to be back behind the wheel this weekend.”
Raphael Lessard Career Highlights
Across eight career Truck Series starts has produced two top-10 finishes and an average finish of 15.1.
In 2019, Lessard posted 83 laps led, two top-five and three top-10 finishes across three ARCA Menards Series starts and one win, one top-five and two top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. His Pinty’s Series victory came at his hometown track, Autodrome Chaudiere in Vallee-Jonction, Quebec, on June 29 when he led a race-high 153 laps en route to the sentimental win.
Won two marquee events driving KBM’s famed No. 51 Super Late Model in 2018; the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway in May and the Red Bud 400 ARCA/CRA Super Series race at Anderson Speedway in July.
Overall in 16 starts for KBM in 2018 split across the CARS Super Late Model Tour, the Southern Super Series and the ARCA/CRA Super Series, posted two wins, three poles, seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 2018.
Started seventh and led 68 laps in the prestigious Snowball Derby at 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., 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.
Raphael Lessard’s No. 4 Mobil 1 Tundra:
KBM-056: The No. 4 Mobil 1 team will unload chassis number KBM-056, which was raced five times by Harrison Burton in 2019, with a best result of third at Pocono Raceway. Most recently, Burton piloted the chassis to a seventh-place finish at Phoenix Raceway last season.
KBM Notes of Interest
Across 20 starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, KBM drivers have earned two wins (Christopher Bell 2017, Kyle Busch 2019), two poles (Christopher Bell 2017 and Kyle Busch 2018), seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes, with an average starting position of 5.8 and an average finish of 12.6.
KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (76) and most wins in a single season (14 in 2014). In addition to collecting a series-record seven Owner’s Championships, the organization has produced two championship-winning drivers; Erik Jones (2015) and Christopher Bell (2017).
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!