After displaying an impressive performance at the Snowball Derby, there have been many who have been wondering what might be next for Raphael Lessard in 2019. Beyond the knowledge that he was parting ways with Kyle Busch Motorsports, there has been little talk of plans for the 17-year-old Super Late Model driver.
That's because there are currently no plans in place for Lessard. The good news is that there are opportunities that are before the young man from Quebec. It is now only a matter of Lessard and his supporters coming up with the resources on their end to make it happen.
Lessard spoke with Speed51.com on Wednesday morning about his current situation and what his vision is for his 2019 racing schedule; a vision that includes going beyond the ranks of Super Late Model if possible.
“We’re still working on it pretty hard, there’s a lot of people working to help me," Lessard told Speed51.com. "We have opportunities to do some stuff but it takes a lot of money, so we’re trying to find some sponsors and partners to help. We hope to find what we need to race at a higher level than Super Late Models. It’s hard, it takes a lot. We have a plan for next year, we just need the sponsors and money to do it.”
Since moving from Quebec to North Carolina back in 2016, Lessard has racked up some impressive accomplishments in Super Late Models; from winning the CARS Tour title as a rookie to winning on some of the roughest and toughest tracks in the land, including the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) and the Redbud 400 at Anderson Speedway (IN) this past year.
Lessard is confident he could do something similar if he has the right opportunity at the next level, wherever and whenever that might be.
“I would like to move up because I think I’ve proved myself in a Super Late Model. I’ve been in the top three or five most of the year, we’ve just had some bad luck or a mechanical issue. But we were mostly contending and challenging for wins at the end of races.”
While Lessard is eyeing his future, he is also taking his time to count his blessings about the last three years, including his time with KBM in 2018.
“I’ve learned a lot these past few years. This year, I’ve learned a ton from Kyle Busch Motorsports. To be able to drive and work with him, it’s amazing," Lessard said. "He taught me a lot and I believe I am a better driver now than what I was at the beginning of the year. I have a lot of experience now, I think that showed at the Snowball Derby because we were super-fast, dominated the middle of the race, we just had to park it with the issue we had. It was heartbreaking, we could have won that race, but it is what is, now we can only focus on next year.”
Whether or not the opportunity to race at the next level comes in 2019, Lessard is still committed to finding a ride to call home in the Super Late Models for two reasons.
First, he knows that there is still so much to learn racing in the division all over continent.
“For sure, we are always learning. I get in a race car and I’m still learning. You are racing against some of the best in the business like Bubba Pollard and Jeff Choquette, they’ve been doing it for so long. They and so many others just didn’t have the chance to move up. But they are still some of the best drivers I know.”
Second, there are still plenty of races that he really wants to win.
“There’s a lot of wins I want to check off my list in a Super Late Model," he stated. "I got Bristol and the Redbud 400 this year, but there’s still a lot more like the Winchester 400, All American 400, the Rattler, SpeedFest, and the Snowball Derby. They are all races that everyone wants to win. I would love to go race those next year and try to win them all. That’s always my plan when I go to race.”
While there is still plenty of work to do approaching both Christmas and the New Year, Lessard wants to also take the time to thank those who have helped and continue to help him.
“I want to thank my parents because they have done a lot for me the past few years, and I can’t thank them enough. My family, my sponsor FRL Express, Toyota. We are going to keep working hard and make it happen one way or another. I’m sure we’ll find something, we just need to stay focused on what we want, and set our goals. If we all work hard, we’ll get it.”
Above all, regardless of the car, the series or the team, there is one goal that Lessard has.
“All I want to do is race!”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com