Date: Oct. 3, 2020
Event: Talladega 250 (Race 19 of 23)
Series: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Location: Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama (2.66-mile tri-oval)
Format: Three Stages; 20 laps/20 laps/54 laps
Start/Finish: 15th/1st (Running, completed 94 of 94 laps)
Winner: Raphael Lessard of Kyle Busch Motorsports (Toyota)
Raphael Lessard, a 19-year-old Canadian driver, captured his first career Gander Trucks victory in Saturday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway narrowly edging former Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne after a caution occurred on the final lap of the event. Lessard became the fifth foreign-born driver to win a Gander Trucks race.
This was Lessard’s first victory and fifth top-10 finish of the 2020 season. The rookie driver currently sits 12th in points.
Stage One Recap:
- Lessard started in the 15th position after a performance matrix based off finishing position from the previous race, ranking in owner points standings and the fastest lap from the previous race at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway.
- When the first caution flew on Lap 14, Lessard was in the 11th position. Veteran crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. called his rookie driver down pit road for a fuel-only stop. The rookie driver would restart in the 23rd position.
- Lessard would finish the stage in the 14th position.
Stage Two Recap:
- At the stage break, Lessard radioed to his crew he was ready to make some moves on the racetrack. Hillman kept the CANAC Tundra on the racetrack. Lessard would restart from the second position.
- The second stage would finish under the caution, and Lessard was scored in the 12th position.
- During the stage caution, Lessard radioed to his crew that his CANAC Tundra needed more stability in the rear. As the leaders pitted, Hillman kept his driver on the racetrack to pit on the next lap to avoid possibly getting wrecked on pit road. The over-the-wall crew performed a four-tire and fuel stop. The rookie driver came back down pit road with one lap remaining under the caution to top off with fuel. Lessard would restart in the 25th position.
- With the fourth caution falling on Lap 49, Lessard was scored in the 22nd position. Lessard came down under the caution for fuel but was caught speeding on pit road. Like the last caution, Lessard came back down pit road with one lap remaining until the green to top off with fuel. The CANAC driver would restart at the tail of the field.
- On Lap 66, Lessard was summoned to pit road under green-flag conditions for a fuel-only stop.
- At the fifth and final caution on Lap 90, Lessard was scored in the third position and was told to stay out.
- As the field began wrecking down the backstretch, Lessard was running in the second position. By the time NASCAR threw the caution for the accident, Lessard had maneuvered the CANAC Tundra one-half a truck ahead of Trevor Bayne to earn his first career victory in the Gander Trucks.
Raphael Lessard, driver of the No. 4 CANAC Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports
How does it feel to get your first Truck Series win?
“That was awesome. First of all, I want to thank everyone back home, my team at Kyle Busch Motorsports. CANAC came on board with us this year. Also, Mobil1, Toyota, TRD – this is amazing, I can’t believe it. It’s my second superspeedway race and to get my first truck series win here is amazing.”
What was the final lap like, and did you think you had won the race?
“I don’t know who was behind me, but he gave me a heck of a push and I can’t thank him enough because he’s part of that win too. He pushed me as hard as he could, and I was just holding on for the ride. Then the caution came out at the right time. I’m so happy. This was my first time doing a burnout from a race win and I loved it. Hopefully, we can do it some more.”
How were you able to get into position to win the race?
“All race long, my crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. gave me the best strategy ever. I was kind of getting tired riding out back. My teammates and I worked really well – Christian Eckes and Chandler Smith. I was just getting tired of it and I guess I listened to my crew chief, my team and I think we won it from listening to what my crew chief was telling me. At the end, we were in position to win it and all I was doing was trying to hold it straight and the guy behind me pushed me as much as he could.”
Did you feel you were ahead of Trevor Bayne when the caution came out?
“I thought I was close, but I was just focused in case we had another restart. In my head, it wasn’t done yet. We didn’t get to the start-finish line yet, so I thought it was going to be a green-white-checkered, but it didn’t happen, and we ended up winning.”
Talladega 250 Recap:
- Raphael Lessard scored his first-career victory at Talladega beating Trevor Bayne. Chandler Smith, Ben Rhodes, and Codie Rohrbaugh rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured five cautions for a total of 24 laps. There were 14 lead changes among 10 drivers.
How Lessard’s KBM Teammates Fared:
- Chandler Smith, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished third.
- Christian Eckes, driver of the No. 18 Toyota, finished 18th.
Gander Trucks Championship Standings:
After 19 events, Lessard sits 12th in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series point standings.
Lessard will be back behind the wheel of the No. 4 Tundra when the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series resumes action on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Live coverage of the Clean Harbors 200 will be on FOX, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM at 4 p.m. ET.