The 2016 All American 400 at the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee is not only bringing Super Late Models back to the high-banks in October, but it is bringing fresh new faces who have already achieved some high marks in their young careers. One of these fresh hotshots is 15-year-old Canadian Raphael Lessard, who has taken the heart of the racing by storm this season.
After spending his first season in Super Late Models racing in the Northeast and his native Quebec, Lessard has moved to the Southeast driving for Toyota and David Gilliland Racing on the CARS Tour. In a year packed full of success, he is headed to Nashville for the very first time with a team he hopes to draw experience off of.
“It’s going to be my first time there and I can’t wait to try it. It’s a big track with a lot of banking, it’s going to be very good,” Lessard told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Some of my crew were there last year and they gave me some advice. I’m going to try the best I can to make the car fast, it should be good.”
This will be the second “crown jewel” Late Model race Lessard will attempt, after competing in the Oxford 250 in 2015. It is also the longest single race that he has entered as well, a stat that Lessard is taking very seriously.
“I’ve been working out enough, but I think it is going to be one of the hardest races I’ve raced. It should be good. I’m going to try and stay hydrated and drink enough water the day before.”
While there is some caution coming in, he also has a great deal of confidence. His time on the CARS Tour has wielded immediate results, winning three races in 2016 including the last two events the Tour has contested at Concord Speedway (NC) and Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC). Lessard also leads the CARS Super Late Model points with two races to go. A big difference for him this coming weekend will be a different cast of characters that he is competing against.
“It gives me confidence. But the drivers that are going to be at Nashville, I’ve never raced against them, and there’s going to be a lot of the best Super Late Model drivers,” Lessard stated. “We’re going to have to be as fast as we can and work very hard. It’s going to be very cool.”
One driver that Lessard is also looking forward to competing against this weekend has also accomplished much in 2016 and will also be making his first start at the Fairgrounds.
“Ty Majeski, he’s won a bunch of races. He is one of the best drivers in Super Late Models, it is going to be awesome to race against him and see if I can compete with him and all those guys.”
In what began as a season to gain seat time and achieve consistency, Lessard has already made the jump to becoming a pre-race favorite at most places he competes, something he and his team had not quite foreseen back in the Spring.
“It’s gone a lot better than I thought,” he said. “It’s more of a learning experience; we’re trying to learn as much as we can every race. If we have a top five, top ten it’s good. But getting wins is awesome. I can’t thank David Gilliland Racing and TRD enough for everything they’ve done for me this season. They believe in me and I believe in them, we make a good team.”
You can watch Lessard and the entire field of Super Late Models on Speed51.com by ordering this weekend’s live video stream of the All American 400. Click here to purchase a live video ticket today.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com