After taking the Southeast Super Late Model ranks by storm in his rookie season last year, Raphael Lessard is looking to cook up another thundercloud this weekend as he prepares for his first career Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway.
The young gun from Quebec hits the 2017 racing season boasting four CARS Tour wins along with the SLM championship in addition to four top tens in a row since last October at the All-American 400, Winchester 400, Snowball Derby, and most recently CRA SpeedFest back in January. He’s looking to bring those numbers into the Rattler this weekend, another SLM crown jewel, while trying to break a team wide skid being experienced by David Gilliland Racing since last December at the Snowball Derby.
Lessard feels that this could be the weekend that he and the team can get the organization back to where they had been last fall.
“I’m very excited because there is going to be a lot of drivers and it is going to be one of my biggest races. I’m sure we can run well. I’ve got a great team behind me at David Gilliland Racing that will give me a great car. It should be very good. I’m ready to go.”
Since his last race at SpeedFest, Lessard has taken the time to study up on both the Rattler and South Alabama Speedway, finding a track that he feels he’ll enjoy.
“I watched the race from last year and two years ago like a hundred times, it should be a fun race. It’s a sporty race track, you can run up top and on the bottom. It should be a good show and I hope to come out with a good finish.”
At the same time, the long off period has made Lessard very eager to get back behind the wheel of his No. 99 machine.
“It’s been a month and I would like to drive my car every day, so it feels like it has been a year since I last drove. I’m so excited to get back behind the wheel of my Toyota Camry.”
Lessard is also looking to take some momentum into the month of April where he will take on the next big step of his racing career: Stock Cars. Lessard will make the first of three appearances in the ARCA Racing Series for Venturini Motorsports April 8 at the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, TN. He feels that a big finish in a prestigious race that the Rattler is along with the big field, will be perfect going forward.
“That’s going to be great fun. I went to get my seat fitted in the car at Venturini Motorsports which was exciting. I’d love a good result this weekend before my first ARCA start.”
Should Lessard take the win on Sunday, he will also take the customary winner’s photo with a real, live rattle snake mascot that the race has become well known for, as well as the various reactions from winners over the years. If Lessard does find the checkers first, he feels he’ll be prepared.
“I’m sure I will. If I win the race it won’t matter, I’ll take the picture if I have to.”
Be sure to follow Speed51.com starting Friday with Trackside Now coverage as well as the live PPV broadcast both Saturday and Sunday of the 41st Rattler 250, which can be purchased here.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com