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Successful start for Raphael Lessard turns into a frustrating finish in Richmond

Saturday, Apr 17 464
Successful start for Raphael Lessard turns into a frustrating finish in Richmond NK Photography Photo

Raphael Lessard is comfortable on relatively short oval tracks like Richmond Raceway. From fifth on the grid, everything was in place for a result at the front of the field, driving the #24 Canac Silverado prepared by GMS Racing.

Raphael Lessard fought successfully in the top-5 over the first 50 laps of the race and in the top-10 during the first 180 laps, collecting precious bonus points in the first two segments by finishing both of them in 7th place. Following the caution period on lap 187, several incidents occurred: an error in the pits dropped Raphael Lessard to the middle of the field, and a driver he was trying to pass caused an incident that forced him to enter the pits in order to straighten the left side fenders. In the end, Raphael Lessard crossed the finish line in 23rd place.

 

The Race As Seen by the Driver (extracts)

"I was confident in my Canac truck at the start of the race. We believed that a top-5 or better finish was well within reach, especially with the great set-up the team was improving on during the stops. The truck was even running better and better in the longer segments.

We stopped late in the race to fit new tires in anticipation of overtaking rivals who had stopped early. Everything was going well until a team mistake in the pits cost me positions. We started from 21st position and then a competitor damaged the left side of my truck. It was a frustrating end to the race," said the unhappy driver of the #24 Canac Silverado. 

 

Raphael Lessard and the NCWTS

After five (5) races in NASCAR trucks in 2019, Raphael Lessard competed in all 23 races of the NCWTS in 2020, his first full season at that level. His first 10 races of 2020 served him well as he worked hard with a professional team, and against seasoned drivers.

He learned more advanced driving techniques from these experienced drivers as well as from his spotter: learning new track quickly without a pre-race test or qualifying session, watching their driving trajectories and test new ones for himself as the track changes over the course of the race, managing downforce and turbulence, overtaking more effectively and protecting your position in the race, adapting to handling defects and adjusting his driving during a run, communicating effectively with the team during a run to describe any problems, managing front/rear braking distribution during a run, managing tire wear to optimize their performance at the end of the race and working in unison with team members during a pit stop.

The effects of this learning were clearly visible over the second half of the 2020 season, as Raphael Lessard caught and worked his way to the leaders several times to put himself in a position to win, as he did at Talladega, and accumulating four top-5 and seven top-10 finishes over the course of the season. 

 

Raphael Lessard career highlights

Right from his start on the track at age 11, Raphael Lessard has raced throughout the Eastern Canada and then on to the United States, establishing a solid reputation as a driver to watch along the way.

In 2020, the young Beauceron decided to leap into professional racing and competed in all 23 races of the NCWTS series (formerly the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks Series). In 28 starts (five in 2019) in NCWTS trucks, Raphael Lessard has won one race, finished four times in the top-5 (two podiums), and nine times in the top-10, giving him an average finish of 14.5.

In 2019, Raphael Lessard led 83 race laps, finished twice in the top-5 and three times in the top-10 in three starts in the ARCA Menards Series. He earned a win, a top five and two top10 finishes in the NASCAR Pinty's series. His NASCAR Pinty's series win came on his home track, Autodrome Chaudière in Vallée-Jonction (Quebec, Canada), on June 29, after leading 153 of 300 laps on the way to an emotional win.

He also won two important Super Late Model Series races in 2018, including the U.S. National Short Track Championship at Bristol Motor Speedway in May, and the ARCA/CRA Super Series Red Bud 400 race at Anderson Speedway in July.

In 2016, Raphael Lessard won the CARS Tour Super Late Model Championship after recording four wins, one pole, leading 157 laps and finishing with eight top-five and nine top-ten finishes out of 10 races.

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