PODIUM! Raphael Lessard Scores Career-Best Third Place Finish on Daytona Road Course

august 16, 2020

Date: Aug. 16, 2020

Event: Sunoco 159 (Race 12 of 23)

Series: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series (NGROTS)

Location: Daytona International Speedway Road Course (3.59-mile, 14-turn road course)

Format: Three Stages; 12 laps/13 laps/21 laps

Start/Finish: 10th / 3rd (Running, completed 46 of 46 laps)

Winner: Sheldon Creed of GMS Racing (Chevrolet)

Raphael Lessard earned a career-best third-place finish in Sunday's NGROTS race at the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway Road Course. The third-place result surpassed the seventh-place result he earned just last week in the Truck Series event at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

Raphael Lessard led three circuits in the opening laps of the Final Stage, but would lose the lead after missing the chicane on the frontstretch on Lap 30. The talented teenager would remain focused despite the mistake and in the end earned his first top-five finish in NASCAR's third division.

Stage One Recap:

  • Raphael Lessard started in the 10th position after a performance matrix based off of finishing position from the previous race, ranking in owner points standings and the fastest lap from the previous race.
  • In a strategy play, Raphael Lessard was summoned to pit road by crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. and the over-the-wall pit crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop. Prior to pitting, the rookie driver radioed to his crew that he needed a little bit more drive.
  • Raphael Lessard would pilot the Mobil 1| Canac Tundra to a 13th-place finish in Stage One.

Stage Two Recap:

  • Before the start of Stage Two, Raphael Lessard radioed to his crew that his Mobil 1 Tundra was experiencing a bad wheel hop in Turns Three and Six and was tight in the bus stop on the backstretch. Under the caution, Raphael Lessard was asked to conserve his tires and fuel.
  • During the stage, Raphael Lessard was summoned to pit road on Lap 23 by Mike Hillman Jr. for four tires and fuel.
  • The stage would stay green the entire time. He would finish the stage in the seventh position to score four stage points.

Final Stage:

  • During the stage caution, Raphael Lessard was asked to continue to save fuel while taking care of his tires as the team was saving for the possibility of a green-white-checkered finish. The 19-year-old driver would start the stage from the first position.
  • Raphael Lessard would lead three laps before he had to serve a stop-and-go penalty for missing the chicane off Turn Four. After serving his penalty, the rookie driver would drop to the seventh position.
  • Under the third caution on Lap 34, Raphael Lessard radioed to his crew that he would wheel hop the rear tires when he would hit the brakes. Raphael Lessard was summoned to pit road for four tires and fuel. This final pit stop would help the No. 4 Mobil 1 | Canac team under a green-white-checkered situation. He would restart in the 10th
  • When the fourth caution flew on Lap 41, Raphael Lessard worked his way up to the fifth position. On the fifth caution on Lap 44, Raphael Lessard worked his way up to fourth.
  • After a green-white-checkered finish, Raphael Lessard managed to gain one position to finish third.

Raphael Lessard, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 | Canac Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:

Can you describe your race today?

"It was an awesome day for us. My Mobil 1 | Canac Toyota Tundra was awesome. Can't thank everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports enough. That's what we've been working on all year, finishes like this. It hasn't been easy for a rookie with all that's going on, but I made a mistake when I was leading - pushed a little too hard. We never gave up and we fought back. It's a little hotter here than Quebec, I can tell you that."

What was the race like today overall?

"It was awesome. First of all, I want to thank my team, Kyle Busch Motorsports and my crew chief, Mike Hillman Jr. We sat down before the race and studied some in-car from yesterday's Xfinity race and I think it helped a ton. I learned a lot watching videos of on-boards from yesterday. The race was awesome. It was kind of a weird situation because no one has been here before in NASCAR and I felt like that's what it's been like for me every race so far this year. Being a rookie with no practice, every time I get into turn one, the first lap is a first for me. I think it was an advantage going into this race for me because I'm used to it and I can't thank TRD for allowing us to go to the TRD simulator and practice on the road course. All of that made a big difference for me."

How difficult was it to be racing for the lead and racing on a new circuit for the series?

"It was pretty difficult. I felt like in the lead, you had to push pretty hard to keep up with the guy behind you. One time I went a little bit harder than the lap before and with the heat on the tire and the brakes, I felt like it got a lot slicker there at the end and it kind of surprised me because I thought I was going to be able to make the corner. I stopped really quick, came back and made a couple other mistakes, but we regrouped. We never gave up and just kept pushing hard at the end. Had a good strategy and that's what it's all about, just never giving up and keeping on working. I don't think we could have had a shot at it at the end. The 2 (Sheldon Creed) truck was really fast. I think maybe, but I was trying to be a little bit conservative and trying to bring my Mobil 1 | Canac Toyota Tundra home."

How were you able to combat the heat during the race?

"It was really hot. During the caution I asked for a bunch of water. I was just throwing water at myself, but TRD has a gym and I can't thank everyone, my coach, Caitlyn, we all work really hard during the week in the gym to be good in those situations. Just trying to be ready physically and mentally and that's what I was. At the end, I think it was the hottest I've been in a race car. We pushed through it."

How much momentum do you have with this team after some strong runs lately?

"I feel like we're a little bit on a roll now. We had a pretty good week last week in Michigan. I felt like Michigan we had a winning truck there, but we had two flat tires. Came back and now I feel like we had a winning truck again and we finished third. It's just about working hard. I've been wanting those results since the beginning of the season and we just keep on working. I think it's coming. We're going to push hard. At Dover, I think with the new rules, we're going to start pretty close to the front so that's going to help us and especially that I've been there before. Last year was my second truck race there with Kyle Busch Motorsports. I think we're ready. I love Dover, it's awesome and track position is super important. It's going to be good for sure."

Do you feel you're close to getting a victory?

"We're a team capable of winning for sure, I feel like I'm doing everything I can. I'm studying video, I'm asking questions - Kyle Busch is helping a lot. It's just a matter of time. We're pushing hard for it. At this point of the season, we're not going for stage points, we're going for the win. That's what we've been doing the last few races and we've had our best finishes. We're just going to keep on working and heading the right direction."

What did you think of the performance by your teammate, Alex Tagliani?

"First of all, I want to apologize to him (Alex Tagliani) for the restart. It was pretty crazy. I don't know if I spun him out, but I hit him pretty good in turn one because I got hit from behind on the one restart. I've been talking to him a lot and he was a good help the last few days. It was fun to speak a little bit of French because I moved to North Carolina and my family can't come visit me at all this year so it's been English, English, English. It's good, it's helping me. I think he did a good job. I was expecting to see him up front for sure because he is a super good road course racer and he's got way more experience than me. I don't know exactly where he finished, but good job to him."

Sunoco 159 Recap:

  • Sheldon Creed picked up his second-career victory beating Brett Moffitt. Raphael Lessard, Matt Crafton and Austin Hill finished in the top-five.
  • The race featured five cautions for a total of seven laps. There were 10 lead changes among six drivers.

How Lessard's KBM Teammates Fared:

  • Christian Eckes, driver of the No. 18 Toyota, finished 12th.
  • Alex Tagliani, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished 22nd.

NGROTS Championship Standings:

After 12 events, Raphael Lessard moved up to 13th in the NGROTS point standings. The rookie of the year candidate sits 191 tallies behind points leader Austin Hill.

Next Race:

Raphael Lessard will be back behind the wheel of the No. 4 Tundra when the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series resumes action on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, at Dover International Speedway. Live coverage will be on RDS, FS1, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM at 5 p.m. ET.

**Press Release prepared by Kyle Busch Motorsports

Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography