St-Joseph-de-Beauce, Quebec native Raphael Lessard will return to his home country this weekend in pursuit of the $50,000 (CAD) put on the line for the inaugural Canadian Short Track at Jukasa Motor Speedway.
The 17-year-old driver who regularly pilots the No. 51 Super Late Model for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) will be trading the M for an R and teaming up with KBR Development for the 200-lap Pro Late Model race over the Labor Day Weekend.
“I’ll be running with KBR,” Lessard told Speed51.com. “I will be Carson Hocevar’s teammate. It will be my first time with them and I’m pretty excited to work with those guys.”
Working with a new crew can often create challenges, especially in a race as big as this weekend’s event in the province of Ontario. However, Lessard is confident that he’ll gel with the team and have a shot at $50,000 at the end of the day on Sunday.
“It’s always fun to work with some new people. You don’t really know what to expect,” Lessard explained. “I talk to them a lot when I race against them and they are some pretty good guys and they know what they are doing so I’m just pretty excited to work with them, and I’m sure we will have a good shot at the $50,000 to win.”
Eager to get on track for such a large event, Lessard plans to practice this Thursday before the race. Those laps on Thursday will be his first around the beautiful 5/8-mile oval located just southwest of Hamilton.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty tough race,” he said. “There’s a lot of good guys that are going to be there and a lot of guys that have raced at this race track before. A lot of guys like me who haven’t, we’ll have to see but I’m sure I’m going to have a good car with this team KBR. They’re really good and successful.”
Lessard, who has already scored big victories this season in the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) and the Redbud 400 at Anderson Speedway (IN), is looking forward to the tough competition he’ll be up against. With 63 of the best drivers from the United States and Canada entered for the race, he knows that winning will be no easy task.
“I’m sure it’s going to be pretty rough. You know, $50,000 to win, we all want to win that race. I think it’s going to be fun.”
Confident in the abilities he’s been building up over the past year, Lessard notes that the traveling he has done will help prepare him for another new track added to his 2018 racing schedule.
“This year has been great so far, I’ve run a lot of races,” he began. “I’ve run one road course and a lot of different race cars so I think that’s going to help a lot, and I’m just super excited to race in Canada.”
Racing in the United States has been amazing for Lessard’s career but unfortunately doesn’t allow for as many of his fans and family from back home to attend his races and see him compete against the top racers in North America.
This big-time Canadian race holds a special place in his heart as it allows his Canadian fans and family to watch him race for big money.
“It means a lot. I don’t get that often to race in Canada in front of some of my fans and my family,” Lessard said. “So, when I get to race in front of them it’s pretty awesome because I don’t see them often at the race track. There’s a lot of people from back home that are going to come down to Jukasa so I think it’s going to be pretty fun.”
Heading into a full weekend Lessard is looking to win the Canadian Short Track Nationals as well as make his way to Indiana for the World Stock Car Festival, which will take place at Winchester Speedway less than 24 hours after the $50,000-to-win race.
“After that one I have Winchester with KBM so it’s going to be a pretty busy weekend,” Lessard admitted. “We’re going to drive all night to Indiana to race Winchester. There’s some big races coming up: Nashville, The All-American 400, Winchester and the end of the year the Snowball Derby.
“We’re all getting ready for those big races. It’s going to be pretty good. We won Bristol and the Redbud, so I’m pretty excited for those big races coming up.”
Race fans can watch all the action from Jukasa Motor Speedway this weekend by purchasing a pay-per-view video ticket on Speed51.com. Live video tickets can be purchased today by clicking here.
-Story by Kendra Adams, Speed51.com Canadian Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com