Raphael Lessard may be a French-speaking Canadian, but he’s certainly making his mark in American auto racing. The personable Lessard had never seen Concord Speedway in North Carolina until this weekend, but it didn’t matter. The 15 year-old took the lead from Quin Houff at the quarter-mark of the Lead2 Group 100 and went on to dominate the remainder of the event. Lessard scored his second CARS Tour Super Late Model win of the season for David Gilliland Racing.
Ironically, Lessard overcame hitting the wall in the tri-oval backstretch early in the race to grab the victory.
“This is a surprising place,” said Lessard with a smile. “I didn’t know if we were going to be done there, but we kept on going. David Gilliland Racing gave me such a good car; I just had to learn what I needed to do.”
The teenager won this race on his father’s birthday, but now it’s the championship that he desires the most. He is the CARS Tour Super Late Model point leader with just three races remaining on the schedule.
“We race for wins, that’s what we come here to do. We want to win the championship, but we are not thinking about points when we come to race,” he added.
Racing is always about what could have happened, but IF the race had one more caution, veteran Preston Peltier felt as though he may have had something of the teenager.
“We needed a caution or another 50-laps,” joked Peltier, who was racing the 33 normally driven by Roger Lee Newton. “If we would have qualified and we had a little better starting position, well…”
Rain did wash out Super Late Model qualifying on this day. Nevertheless, the opportunity to race with the Newton team and finish second at his home track, a place he has won as many times, was surprisingly pleasant for Peltier after the rough season he has endured.
“We had them covered at South Boston (PASS race) and the battery went dead. Man, this year has been tough on me,” admitted Peltier. “We have fought a lot of gremlins, totaled some cars and simply had a lot of bad luck. It feels good to run good with this competition and at this place. I just wish I would have had a caution late in the race.”
Houff, Matt Craig and Tanner Thorson, with only a couple Super Late Model starts under his belt, rounded out the top-five finishers.
Brandon Setzer, who came into Concord only four points behind Lessard in the battle for the CARS Tour Super Late Model championship, was off a tad Saturday night. He brought his number-6 machine to pit road several times, but never rebounded. Setzer, the son of former NASCAR driver Dennis Setzer, will lose ground in the standings with a ninth place finish.
Zane Smith was running near the front of the field early in the race, until he stopped his car suddenly on the racetrack. Smith was transported via ambulance for further evaluation, but returned to the track at the end of the race. Smith told Speed51.com that he suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning and could not breathe at the point that he stopped his 77-car on the track.
“My throat felt like it closed up,” said Smith.
The Gary Crooks owned team were investigating an exhaust leak, but found that was not the culprit. It is still unknown what caused the mishap.
Speed51.com will have a video interview with Lead2 Group 100 Super Late Model winner Lessard on Monday.
Relive all the moments of the race by reading the Trackside Now coverage presented by Lead2 Real Estate Group and Centroid. (click here for coverage)
There is no rest for the weary as the CARS Tour heads to Kenly, NC for round number-8 of the 10-race tour next Saturday at Southern National Motorsports Park.
Story by: Bob Dillner, Executive Editor, speed51.com
Photo Credit: Speed51.com
CARS Tour – Super Late Models