Event: Sunoco 159, Race 12 of 23, 100 laps – 12/13/19; 158.85 miles
Location: Daytona International Speedway Road Course in Daytona Beach, Fla. (3.57-mile, 14-turn road course)
Date/Broadcast: Aug. 16, 2020, at noon ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
Racing with Raphael:
Raphael Lessard and the No. 4 Mobil 1 team head to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where the 19-year-old Canadian driver will make his second NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series start on a road course. Lessard’s first start on a road course in the Gander Trucks came at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ont., where he qualified ninth and finished 10th. In the NASCAR Pinty’s Series last season, Lessard made one start at Circuit de Trois-Rivieres, a 1.53-mile street course in Quebec where he started 15th and finished seventh.
So far across 11 starts in his first full-time season in the Truck Series, Lessard has recorded an average starting position of 13.7 and an average finishing position of 17.3. The Toyota Racing Development Driver posted a career-best seventh-place finish last week at Michigan International Speedway. He is currently ranked 14th 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 311 Gander Truck Series starts under his belt, with 22 wins, 23 poles, 115 top-five and 171 top-10 finishes with drivers including Todd Bodine, Jeb Burton, Kyle Busch and last season, Harrison Burton. On road courses, Hillman has five Gander Trucks starts and his drivers have earned one top-10, an average start of 12.0 and an average finish of 14.8.
On Sunday, the Triple Truck Challenge returns to the Truck Series. This year’s program will consist of the events at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Dover (Del.) International Speedway (Aug. 21) and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Aug. 30). An extra $50,000 from Gander RV & Outdoors is on the line for each of those three events, should a driver win two of the three races he will get a $150,000 bonus and if a driver can win all three races, they will get a $500,00 bonus. Last June, Greg Biffle won the first Triple Truck Challenge for KBM at Texas Motor Speedway.
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.
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Raphael Lessard Daytona Road Course Q&A
You did a few road courses races last year. How did they go, and do you enjoy road course racing?
“Yeah – I did two road courses last year: one at Mosport in the Truck Series and one in Pinty’s at Trois-Rivieres in Quebec. It’s something way different than what I’m used to. I love it, though. You can be really aggressive. The downshifting and upshifting are awesome. You are always doing something and trying to push it harder and harder. I think the experience I have last year in road courses will help me a lot this year going to Daytona. I think it’s everyone’s first time there with no practice and no qualifying. It’s going to be interesting. I’m sure we are going to have a fast Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra for the race.”
How will the road course at Daytona compare to the road courses you have raced at in the past?
“I would say it is hard to compare it to the road courses I’ve done before. There are going to be a lot of fast corners when you get on to the oval and the chicane on the backstretch and the chicane off Oval Turn Four. You’re going to be coming up to speed really fast. I feel like at Mosport that there were a couple of long straightaways that you were going in really fast into the corner. Trois-Rivieres was the other one I did last year in the Pinty’s Series. It was the tight corners. It was in the street of a city. I think that is what it will be like in the infield part of the racetrack. You are going to have to be really smooth with not a whole lot of grip, so we will see. We don’t know what to expect. I did the simulator at TRD a little bit, but it is hard to tell how it will be in real life.”
How have you and your team prepared for a racetrack that they’ve never raced at before?
“To prepare to go there, me and my team, Kyle Busch Motorsports, we both have never been there. It is the first time for everyone pretty much. We are lucky enough to have the TRD simulator to use and try different setups. For me, it’s trying to just figure out the racetrack. Hopefully it is realistic, so we can be fast in real life. It’s going to be different. It’s going to be a new challenge. It’s a lot different than what we’ve been doing this year with the mile-and-a-halves and two-mile tracks like Michigan. It is going to be a lot different, but I’m excited. It’s a new challenge. We are just going to go for it and try to stay on the racetrack all race long to compete for the win at the end.”
Raphael Lessard Career Highlights:
Across 16 career Truck Series starts has produced three top-10 finishes and an average finish of 15.4.
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.
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-049: The No. 4 Mobil 1 team will unload chassis number KBM-049, which has been raced three times. Most recently, Todd Gilliland piloted the chassis to an 18th-place finish at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park last season.
KBM Notes of Interest:
- KBM drivers have collected one win, 65 laps led, seven top-five and nine top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 11.1 across 20 starts at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, the only road course on the Gander Trucks schedule.
- Erik Jones collected KBM’s lone road-course victory in 2015 at CTMP.
- KBM holds the NGROTS records for most career wins (78) 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!