Rougemont, North Carolina, September 11, 2018 – Raphaël Lessard had a rocky race during the Puryear Tank Lines – Thrifty Tire 300, a 150-lap event at the Orange County Speedway in the CARS Response Energy Tour series.
Lessard had to start the race with the #18 spare car as his usual #51 FRL Express/Mobil 1/Toyota had a mechanical issue during the practice session. However, he was starting from the front of the field as the qualifying session was cancelled due to a thunderstorm. The series took the best lap time of the practice session on Saturday to build the starting grid.
At the beginning of the race, the 17-year-old driver held off Steve Wallace for a few laps, but eventually the American driver passed him. For about 60 laps, the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver was on the rear bumper of Wallace without being able to take the lead. A little over the halfway point, the Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce had to concede to another competitor until the 113th lap.
After a restart, things got complicated in the front of the pack as Matt Craig missed his start and had a contact with Raphaël. The Canadian driver was taken to the inside of the track and touched Steve Wallace. After this incident, the three drivers had to restart from the back of the field. But Lessard managed very well and climbed back to the 5th place, behind Jared Fryar, his main competitor in the Driver’s Standings.
With this second top 5 on the Rougemont track this season, the Québec-driver couldn’t take the lead in the championship race and remains 9 points behind Fryar. The crowning of the 2018 champion will take place during the last event on the calendar taking place November 3rd in Virginia.
“After a restart, Steve Wallace had opened the door and I took advantage of it to try and pass but he closed in on me and this is when he spun out. It’s never fun to have an incident when you are battling in the front of the pack, and that you have to restart from the back of the field,” said Raphaël after the race. “The team never lost its spirit and we kept pushing. We limited the damages by finishing in the top 5 which allows me to score important points in the championship. Nine points behind is not a big gap so the championship is not set yet. I will have to give everything I have in Virginia in November. I want to thank my parents, my sponsors FLR Express, Mobil 1 and Toyota, and Kyle Busch Motorsports. I also need to thank the investors in my limited partnership, and all the fans who came out to watch the race at the Resto L’Express.”
Next race on the calendar:
Raphaël Lessard’s next race will be on September 22 at the 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.