Raphael Lessard Returns To A Good Track, Bristol

Raphael Lessard

Event: UNOH 200, Race 17 of 23, 200 laps – 55/55/90; 106.6 miles
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (0.533-mile oval)
Date/Broadcast: Sept. 17, 2020, at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90

Racing with Raphael:

Raphael Lessard and the No. 4 CANAC team head to Bristol Motor Speedway for Thursday night’s UNOH 200. Lessard, who has finished inside the top 10 in four of the last six races, returns to a track that he had a strong run at as part of his three-race schedule with Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in 2019. The Canadian teenager was in position for a top-five finish in last year’s UNOH 200 before getting spun by another competitor with 30 laps remaining. Lessard was forced to pit road for a set of scuff tires under caution and lined up 19th for the ensuing restart with 22 laps remaining. He was able to gain seven positions in the closing laps to bring home a 12th-place finish.

The talented teenager also led a race-high 55 laps en route to victory in the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol in May of 2018 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. The Toyota Racing Development product also has one K&N Pro Series East start at the half-mile concrete oval, a ninth-place finish in April of 2019.

So far in 2020, Lessard has 16 starts in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series with an average starting position of 12.4 and an average finishing position of 15.6. His season-best finish was on the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where the rookie driver finished in the third position.
Lessard made five Gander Trucks starts in 2019, three of those with 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, crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. has plenty of experience. The veteran crew chief has 316 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 Bristol, Hillman has 12 Gander Trucks starts with four top-fives, six top-10s, an average start of 13.4 and an average finish of 12.9. He finished in the runner-up position three times with Bodine (2005, 2006 and 2008) at the Last Great Colosseum.

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.

CANAC is the first independent hardware and building materials store chain to open in Quebec City. Its expertise of over 145 years of experience allows CANAC to perpetuate the spirit of the hardware stores of yesteryear in a modern environment, with qualified personnel trained by its continuing education centre accredited by Emploi-Québec. CANAC serves both individual customers and contractors and offers aggressive prices that defy all competition. Since its acquisition by Groupe Laberge in 1985, the company’s expansion has focused on opening new modern hardware stores and on renovating existing branches to better adapt them to the needs and expectations of consumers. Today, CANAC has 30 branches and employs more than 3,400 part-time and full-time workers.

Raphael Lessard Bristol Q&A

What does it mean to you to have Canadian companies like CANAC supporting your racing in the states?

“CANAC has been a huge partner for me this year. They are a hardware and construction material chain in Quebec. They have 30 stores and more than 3400 employees. I’m really glad to have them onboard with me. It’s been an honor. I can’t thank them enough. It’s been a crazy year to have them on board for the first time without any fans in the stands and at the racetrack, but we’ve been trying really hard to give them the exposure that they deserve in Canada and the United States. In Canada, my races have been on RDS every weekend. I’ve been trying to do interviews on the TV, on the phone, and on the radio as much as possible almost every day. I just can’t thank them enough. Hopefully, we can get them their first NASCAR win.”

With not making the playoffs, what are your goals for the rest of the season?

“Not being in the playoffs this year isn’t exactly what we wanted, oh well. Now we have to focus. Our goal for the rest of the season is to go out there and win. I have a great team behind me: Kyle Busch Motorsports, Toyota, Mobil 1 and CANAC. We are a team capable of winning. We’ve been going on the right direction the past few weeks. We’re hoping to get better and keep getting better to go compete for wins.”

You had a strong run at Bristol last year before you got spun. Are you looking forward to going back there?

“Last year we had a really strong run with the No. 46 Toyota Tundra at Bristol. We were running for third at the end but got spun out. It’s one of my favorite racetracks. I love that place. I won there in the super late models with Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2018. Hopefully we can go out there Thursday night and go win this thing. It’s an amazing feeling to win there. It’s one of my favorite tracks, and I’m excited for it. Hopefully we have a really good CANAC Toyota Tundra this weekend.”

Raphael Lessard Career Highlights:

Across 21 career Truck Series starts has produced one top-five, six top-10 finishes and an average finish of 14.6.

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 CANAC Tundra

KBM-062: The No. 4 CANAC team will unload chassis number KBM-062, which has been raced four times. Most recently, Lessard piloted the chassis to its best finish of 2020 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, where the rookie driver finished sixth.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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