Raphael Lessard Hopes To Keep Big Mo Rolling

Raphael Lessard

Event: ToyotaCare 250, Race 16 of 23, 250 laps – 70/70/110; 187.5 miles
Location: Richmond Raceway in Virginia (0.75-mile D-shaped oval)
Date/Broadcast: Sept. 10, 2020, at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90

Racing with Raphael:

Raphael Lessard and the No. 4 Mobil 1 team head to Richmond Raceway, where the 19-year-old Canadian driver is coming off his fourth top-10 in the last five races. 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. For the first time since 2005, the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series returns to Richmond.

So far in 2020, Lessard has 15 starts with an average starting position of 12.7 and an average finishing position of 14.9. The Toyota Racing Development Driver’s season-best finish was on the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where the rookie driver finished in the third position.

As the season has progressed, so have Lessard’s finishes. Over the last nine races, he has posted an average finish of 10.3 compared to an average finish of 21.8 across the first six races of 2020. While he’s moved up three positions to 12th in the point standings during that span, he still sits 66 points behind the cutoff line and faces a must-win situation on Thursday night in the final regular season race to make the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series playoffs.

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 at Bristol 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 315 Gander Truck Series starts under his belt, with 22 wins, 23 poles, 116 top-five and 174 top-10 finishes with drivers including Todd Bodine, Jeb Burton, Kyle Busch and last season, Harrison Burton. At Richmond, Hillman has one Gander Trucks start, a runner-up finish in 2005 with Todd Bodine. Across 63 short track starts, the veteran crew chief has collected 16 top-fives, 29 top-10s, and one pole.
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 Richmond Q&A

With finishing in the top-10 in four of the last five races, do you feel like you’re at the point where you can go out and compete for a win Thursday?

“We need to win to make it into the Playoffs on Thursday night at Richmond. I feel like it is going to be a place that fits my style really well. I just can’t wait. We’ve been really good the past few races. We’ve been doing what we’ve needed to do, which is finishing in the top-10 and top-five. We have been running up front. It’s been really good to be competitive. Now, I feel like we’re ready to compete for wins. That’s what we want to do. We are going to go for it and do whatever it takes. We’re really excited for this weekend.”

What would it mean to get your first truck series win in a race sponsored by Toyota?

“It’s the ToyotaCare 250 this Thursday night. It would mean the world to me to win this race because Toyota has been a huge part of my career. They’ve been helping me since the beginning. I’m really fortunate to have them helping me and being a part of the Toyota Racing Driver Development program. We’re going to go there and win to make it into the playoffs.”

How do you prepare for Richmond with no current truck series videos to watch and your crew chief not having a notebook that you can study?

“The truck series hasn’t been at Richmond in years. My crew chief doesn’t have a notebook about this place. I don’t have a notebook about this place. I’ve never been there, but I have to go out there and do what I did at Darlington. Study a lot of videos, in-car cameras from the Cup and Xfinity series, ask a lot of questions, and spend time in the simulator. Hopefully, I am prepared when we get there. I know what I have to do to win. Darlington was another track where the truck series hasn’t been at in years, and we did really well. I think it is going to be really good for us this weekend. I’m really excited. Hopefully, we have a good Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra there.”

Raphael Lessard Career Highlights:

Across 20 career Truck Series starts has produced one top-five, six top-10 finishes and an average finish of 14.0.

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.

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-035: The No. 4 Mobil 1 team will unload chassis number KBM-035, which has been raced 15 times. Most recently, Harrison Burton ran the chassis at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. In 2016, Daniel Suarez piloted the chassis to victory at Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway.

KBM Notes of Interest:

KBM has never raced at Richmond in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. Kurt Busch picked up the organization’s lone NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at the Virginia track on April 27, 2012.

Across 110 short track events, KBM drivers have collected 14 wins, 41 top-fives, 71 top-10s, an average start of 8.7 and an average finish of 9.6.

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)


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