Event: Pocono Organics 150 to benefit Farm Aid (Race 6 of 23), 60 Laps -15/15/30; 150 Miles
Location: Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. (2.5-mile tri-oval)
Date/Broadcast: June 27, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
Racing with Raphael:
Raphael Lessard and the No. 4 SiriusXM team head to Pocono Raceway, where the 18-year-old Canadian driver will make his first start in the NASCAR Truck Series at the 2.5-mile triangle. Lessard made two starts at Pocono in the ARCA Menards Series last season, where he posted an average start of 6.5 and an average finish of 4.5. 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 five starts, with an average starting position of 13.8 and an average finishing position of 18.8. The Toyota Racing Development Driver’s season-best finish was an 11th-place result at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway. He is currently ranked 13th in Gander Trucks driver points standings and fourth 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 305 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 Pocono Raceway, Hillman has eight Gander Trucks starts and his drivers have earned one win, two top-five and three top-10 finishes, with an average start of 4.4 and an average finish of 10.0. The win came in 2018 with KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch.
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.
Raphael Lessard Pocono Q&A
Do you feel like racing in the ARCA races last year at Pocono will help you as you make your first truck series start there?
“Yeah — for sure it is going to help. It is my first time in the truck series at Pocono. I have been there before in ARCA. It is going to be a lot easier for me because I know the racetrack this time. I’m excited! Pocono is an awesome racetrack. It’s very big, but it very tricky. There are three corners that are way different. I’m just ready. Kyle Busch Motorsports brought really good Tundras there the past few years, so I’m excited for it.”
Have you discussed with anyone what the differences will be at Pocono from the ARCA car to the Truck?
“Of course. I think in the ARCA car that you use the brake a little bit more than in the truck series. I think in ARCA that you have to slow down a little bit more because you have a little but more horsepower. The truck is just a little bit faster in the corner with more downforce. I feel like we are going to carry a little bit more speed in the center and be more aero sensitive. We will see what we’ve got on Saturday, but it should be good.”
Which turn at Pocono do you find the trickiest?
“I would say the trickiest corner at Pocono is the Tunnel Turn – Turn 2. You have to carry a lot of speed. You are close to being wide open, but if you don’t hit it right, it can throw you straight into the wall. You just have to be careful. There is some kind of bump on the bottom. You want to arc it but not arc it too much. You don’t want to lift too much because if you miss it, you can lose three or four spots right there. I’m sure we are going to have a fast SiriusXM Toyota Tundra this weekend, so it should be easy to get through there.”
Raphael Lessard Career Highlights:
Across 10 career Truck Series starts has produced two top-10 finishes and an average finish of 15.0.
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 SiriusXM Tundra:
KBM-062: The No. 4 SiriusXM team will unload chassis number KBM-062, which has been raced twice. Most recently, Lessard piloted the chassis to a 30th-place finish earlier this season at Las Vegas.
KBM Notes of Interest:
Across 23 starts at Pocono Raceway, KBM drivers have earned four wins (Kyle Busch 2015 and 2018, William Byron 2016, and Christopher Bell 2017), two poles (Erik Jones 2015 and Kyle Busch 2018), 223 laps led, 11 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes, with an average starting position of 7.9 and an average finish of 7.2
KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (77) 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!