NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Overview
Event: Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 (Race 7 of 23), 150 laps — 35/35/80; 225 miles
Location: Kentucky Speedway in Sparta (1.5-mile tri-oval)
Date/Broadcast: July 11, 2020, at 6 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR 90
Racing with Raphael
- Raphael Lessard and the No. 4 SiriusXM team head to Kentucky Speedway, where the 19-year-old Canadian driver will make his first start in the NASCAR Truck Series at the 1.5-mile oval. In four mile-and-a-half starts this season, Lessard has an average start of 15.2 and an average finish of 18.5 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.
- So far in 2020, Lessard has six starts, with an average starting position of 13.8 and an average finishing position of 21.8. The Toyota Racing Development Driver’s season-best finish was an 11th-place result at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway. He is currently ranked 15th in Gander Trucks driver points standings and fifth in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
- 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 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 306 Gander Truck Series starts under his belt, with 22 wins, 23 poles, 115 top-five and 170 top-10 finishes with drivers including Todd Bodine, Jeb Burton, Kyle Busch and last season, Harrison Burton. At Kentucky Speedway, Hillman has 14 Gander Trucks starts and his drivers have earned one win (Todd Bodine, 2010), five top-five and eight top-10 finishes, with an average start of 11.2 and an average finish of 10.7.
- 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.
- Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) is the leading audio entertainment company in the U.S., and the premier programmer and platform for subscription- and digital advertising-supported audio products. Pandora, a subsidiary of SiriusXM, is the largest ad-supported audio entertainment streaming service in the U.S. SiriusXM and Pandora together reach more than 100 million people each month with their audio products.
Raphael Lessard, Driver Q&A
As a rookie, how tough has it been not being able to have practice time on track?
“As a rookie, it has been really hard with no practice and qualifying every weekend. My first laps around most of these racetracks is in the race. It makes it tough because in practice, you take your time to learn the racetrack and get the truck better to where you like it. Now during the race, you have to go. You are kind of in a rush to learn everything as quick as possible, but it’s kind of getting normal too. I feel like the more we race with no practice or qualifying it feels like normal now. I am getting used to that. I think it is going to help me in the future when we get practice again to be better at getting used to new racetracks. Kentucky is a new one for me this weekend. I have studied a lot of video. I’m ready. We should have a good SiriusXM Toyota Tundra.”
Do you pay attention at all to where you are in the playoff standings or do you just take things race by race?
“Yeah – for sure. I do pay attention on the championship because we want to be in the Playoffs. I feel like we are a team capable of being in the playoffs. We are just going to have to keep on working. We are ready to bounce back from what happened at the last race. We can’t change it. It’s already in the past. We are going to work really hard this weekend in Kentucky. I think we are going to have a really good race there.”
You moved to the United States at the start of the season from Canada to concentrate on your racing, which is tough on any young adult. How much more difficult has that transition been for you in the middle of a worldwide pandemic?
“Yeah – It’s a crazy year to move fulltime here in North Carolina. It’s been kind of crazy, but I haven’t seen my family for a really long time because the border is still closed. I love it here! I’m close to the shop at Kyle Busch Motorsports. I’m close to the gym at TRD and the simulator. All I do is think about racing, and that is what I’ve always wanted to do is move here and focus on my career. It’s still fun. It’s not the pandemic and everything that is going on right now is not going to stop me from being here.”
Raphael Lessard Career Highlights:
- Across 11 career Truck Series starts has produced two top-10 finishes and an average finish of 17.0.
- 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 SiriusXM Tundra:
KBM-054: The No. 4 SiriusXM team will unload chassis number KBM-054, which has been raced five times. In 2018, team owner Kyle Busch won with the chassis at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. Most recently, Harrison Burton piloted the chassis to an 11th-place finish at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in 2019.
KBM Notes of Interest:
- KBM drivers have collected four wins, three poles, 740 laps led, 14 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 9.6 across 28 starts at Kentucky
- Christopher Bell scored the organization’s most recent win at Kentucky in 2017, William Byron was victorious in 2016 and Kyle Busch visited victory lane in 2011 and 2014.
- 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).