Kicking off the 42nd Annual Rattler 250 weekend, a diverse group of more than 50 Late Models practiced at South Alabama Speedway (AL) on Friday afternoon. Racing veterans and local favorites turned laps around the 4/10 mile, but at the end of the day it was Raphael Lessard, the young Canadian driver, who was sitting atop the charts.
Mother Nature shortened the final Super Late Model session, but not before Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Raphael Lessard was able to sneak in the fastest lap of the day. Lessard says the lap was a mock qualifying run for Saturday’s time trials.
“We were pretty good,” Lessard said of his day overall. “Second practice, the car was still great; it drove really good with old tires. We changed the package to qualify and got the fastest lap of the day, so that’s pretty cool.”
Lessard managed a top-ten finish last year in the Rattler 250, but hopes the switch to KBM will score him a win this time around.
“It’s awesome to get this opportunity to drive for KBM this year,” Lessard said. “It’s just one of those races that everyone wants to win and we’re going to have to be patient and be there to the end.”
When asked if he’d feel nervous about a rattlesnake being draped around his neck during victory lane celebrations, Lessard wasn’t intimidated.
“I don’t really care”, Lessard said matter-of-factly. “I’ll kiss it if I have to, as long as I win.”
Casey Roderick, a driver who already came face-to-face with the snake back in 2014, is hoping to strike again. Roderick was fastest in the first two rounds of Southern Super Series practice in his new Fury machine.
“Everything is brand new, every piece,” Roderick said. “It’s got a different feel and I’m just getting used to it. I’m really looking forward to this weekend and having a good run with it.”
Despite Roderick’s newfound speed in the Super Late Model class, Roderick says practice is only half the battle.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Roderick said. “Practice is one thing, qualifying is another and the race is a whole different animal. The biggest thing is to just keep the fenders on it and learn from this weekend.”
Swapping luck with Roderick, Bubba Pollard was fastest in the first session of practice for the Baby Rattler 125, but couldn’t carry that speed over to his Super Late Model.
“The Pro car was fast right off the trailer I felt like, but the Super is off a little bit,” Pollard told Speed51.com. “We just can’t find much roll speed. We’ll keep working on it and see how it goes.”
Jeff Choquette was the other fastest Pro Late Model of the day, topping the charts in the final session for the division. Choquette, like Pollard and Roderick, is pulling double-duty this weekend.
“We’ve got two good racecars here,” Choquette said. “We’ll see what happens. One week you dominate and the next you’re chasing your own tail. We feel like we have a good shot this weekend.”
The Late Models return to the track Saturday morning for practice at 9:30 a.m. CT, followed by qualifying later at 3 p.m. CT. The 42nd Annual Rattler 250 is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. CT and can be seen, along with Saturday’s racing action, on Speed51.com’s live pay-per-view broadcast (click here to order).
To replay all of Friday’s practice action from South Alabama Speedway, check out Speed51.com’s Trackside Now coverage at this link: http://speed51.com/trackside-now-rattler-250-practice-day-at-south-alabama-3/
Story By: Melissa Strahley, Speed51 Southeast Correspondent – Twitter:
Photo Credit: Speed51.com