The CARS Racing Tour’s most northern race is at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, North Carolina. Orange County Speedway is 1,023 miles south of Raphael Lessard’s hometown of St.-Joseph-de-beauce, Canada. Lessard came south 10 times in 2016 to run the full CARS Tour schedule and it paid off in the biggest of ways.
The 15-year-old French Canadian driver won the 2016 CARS Super Late Model Tour championship.
Lessard scored wins in four of the 10 series races, including the final race of the season on Saturday evening at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina.
Saturday’s race was a bit of a wild one for Lessard, even after he took the lead. At one point Lessard and Brandon Setzer went three-wide with a lapped car as they battled for the lead.
Lessard then had to deal with his teammate Cole Timm on the last restart, but he quickly drove out to a big lead after just a couple of laps.
However, that lead started to dissipate quickly as Setzer started to close in while Lessard battled a few lapped cars.
“We fought, scraped, and scrapped and got back to second, but just ran out of time” Setzer said afterwards. “It’s very disappointing because I felt like we had an equal car with Raphael, but maybe a little better. It’s disappointing because I felt like I didn’t get to race him as hard as I wanted to when I needed to and put on a show for the fans, but it’s encouraging because we struggled all this year and now we’ve got our program turned around so I’m really excited.”
In the end, Lessard was able to beat Setzer to the line by 1.5 seconds to clinch his fourth victory of the year, and the CARS Super Late Model Tour championship. Lessard said he couldn’t be happier about being the only Super Late Model celebrating in victory lane.
“That’s really big,” he said. “There’s always two cars in victory lane. To have one car in victory lane because we won the championship and the race is amazing.”
Lessard’s David Gilliland Racing crew drenched the teenager in cider in victory lane as the outside temperature was no warmer than 45 degrees. However, Lessard said he didn’t mind the cider shower one bit.
“I am freezing right now,” Lessard said with a laugh. “But I really enjoy it. It has been a great year.”
Setzer, Cole Timm, Tate Fogleman and Lucas Jones completed the top five.
Speed51.com will have plenty more from the CARS Tour season finale including interviews with both CARS Tour champions still to come on the Speed51 Network.
For an on-demand replay of Saturday’s Trackside Now coverage presented by MPI and Five Star Racecar Bodies, click here.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
CARS Super Late Model Tour 125
Southern National Motorsports Park, Lucama, North Carolina