The race is known as the All-American 400, but it will be two Canadians leading the field to the green flag after Saturday’s qualifying session at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
St. Joseph, Quebec’s Raphael Lessard set the fastest time in qualifying and will start on the pole for Sunday’s race. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver picked up the win in another 400 lap race, the Redbud 400 at Anderson (IN) in July and has shown speed all weekend.
“I can’t thank Kyle Busch Motorsports enough, they gave me an awesome Mobil One Toyota Camry,” Lessard told Speed51.com. “I wasn’t sure about our qualifying speed but I knew our long run speed from yesterday was very good. We did some mock runs in practice today but we weren’t great. I tried to change my line a little bit in qualifying and it paid off, so I’m just excited for 400 laps tomorrow. I was a little more aggressive on corner exit and it helped but I slid the right rear tire in turn four, but it was still good enough to get the pole.”
Lessard has hit a stretch of bad luck in recent races. He had one of the fastest cars at the Winchester 400 three weeks ago, but a mechanical issue early took him out of contention of the win. He hopes he can turn his luck around with an All-American 400 win.
“The past couple races we ran into bad luck and it wasn’t great, so to come out with the pole is pretty awesome.” We’re usually really good in long races. We won the Redbud (400) but we’ll have to see what my crew chief Cody (Glick) says and listen to him and have a good strategy for tomorrow.”
Completing the Canadian front row, Porter’s Lake, Nova Scotia’s Cole Butcher sat in the pole position for most of qualifying before Lessard dethroned him. He will start second, having shown speed all weekend in his first trip to Nashville.
“We struggled a little bit in qualifying trim this morning, but the Wilson Motorsports guys brought a good package to the track” Butcher said. “For my qualifying run I ran a little bit of a different line. I was relying on Donnie (Wilson) and a couple other people on what exactly to do because I was overdriving my entry. I backed it up and ran it a little lower and brought it (second place).”
Though Butcher has competed in extra-distance races in the Maritimes and made a start in last year’s Snowball Derby, the Kulwicki Development Program driver has never competed in a race as long as the All-American 400.
“I know we have a really good long run car and a good race car for tomorrow, and I know Raphael Lessard has a good car, as well as Donnie Wilson and all my fellow competitors. It’s 400 laps, you just have to be there for the last hundred. Anything can happen and probably will happen.”
Series champions occupy row two, with ARCA/CRA Super Series champion Josh Brock starting third and Southern Super Series champion Casey Roderick starting right next to him in fourth. Connor Okrzesik rounded out the top five in qualifying.
-By Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (Michigan and Indiana) - Twitter: @KGeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com