One year ago, Raphael Lessard was circling the short tracks of the Northeast with the simple goal of gaining experience and staying out of harm’s way. On Saturday night at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC), the “birthplace of NASCAR stars,” the 14-year-old native of Quebec lived out a dream as a CARS Tour Super Late Model winner.
Lessard, driving the No. 99 for David Gilliland Racing, stayed patient throughout the 125-lap race before passing Christian Eckes on lap 105 and pulling away for his first career Super Late Model win.
“In the car I was very excited,” Lessard told Speed51.com powered by JEGS after the race. “At first I was a little bit nervous because it was my first Super Late Model win, and that is a dream come true. I was hoping to not have a caution. My team did a very good job, David Gilliland Racing gave me an awesome Toyota Camry.”
Lessard started the race from the ninth position and patiently made his way towards the top five. While many drivers began to lose the handling of their car due to tire wear, Lessard’s patience paid off as he began to work the outside groove around his competition.
“(My crew) was telling me don’t spin your tire, don’t spin your tire, save your tire,” explained Lessard. “That’s what I did and we finished first tonight. It’s very great. It’s a dream come true.”
Mastering Hickory Motor Speedway is not an easy task, even for the most groomed veterans of the sport. It’s a race track that has been known to chew up tires, and a track that rewards patience. At the young age of 14, Lessard credited the people he knows best as the ones who taught him to be patient.
“My dad maybe, my parents,” Lessard said with a laugh. “Christian Eckes ran a very great race, congratulations to him. It was very fun.”
Eckes held on to finish second after a strong run that included setting fast time earlier in the day during qualifying.
“This was our first CARS Tour race for the Super,” said Eckes after also finishing 9th in the Late Model Stock race later that evening. “We had a good car here in the Easter Bunny but had some motor issues in that race. So we knew we had a good car for this race. Just got a little too free at the end there and it cost us on the long run. I think if the caution came out and the tires cooled a bit, we would have been alright. ”
Brandon Setzer, Steve Wallace and Quin Houff completed the top-five.
A full on-demand replay of the race can be seen by visiting 51’s Trackside Now presented by PFC Brakes.
Super Late Model results:
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com