Canadian Raphaël Lessard takes impressive 3rd place in All-American 400
Fifteen-year-old Raphaël Lessard finished in third place during the 32nd edition of the 2016 All-American 400 presented by Freman-Webb Companies at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, in Nashville, Tennessee.
This was Lessard's 4th non CARS-Tour-Championship race of the season at the helm of his Toyota Camry.
The St-Joseph-de-Beauce native almost didn’t make it to Sunday’s race as he went off track during private testing on Tuesday because of a mechanical failure, and seriously damaged the car. He came in 29th position during the Saturday qualification session, which was one place shy of a guaranteed spot on the starting grid. As a result of this 29th placing, Raphaël had to partake in a last-chance race Saturday evening to secure one of the remaining four spots on the grid. He started in first place and ended the 20-lap sprint in the same position. Thus, he started the race 29th of 32 cars for the 400-lap race.
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During the first 70 laps of the race, Raphaël initiated his amazing come back, going from 29th position to 15th. Many yellow flags set the tone for this race, sometimes benefiting Lessard, sometimes not. Moreover, during a mid-race yellow flag situation, Lessard, in his Toyota Camry No. 99 FRL Express/Team Coach Imaging/Toyota/JBLAudio prepared by David Gilliland Racing, found himself in first position, but couldn’t hold on to it as his car didn’t have new tires compared to his rivals.
Only 13 cars made it until the checkered flag, and it is during a spectacular finish that Raphaël took the 3rd place, 18 laps before the end of the race. “It was an awesome race; I am happy even though we didn’t win this one,” said Lessard. “It was a hard week after Tuesday’s accident. The car was not great; this is why we struggled during qualifying. David Gilliland team didn’t stop working on the car, I am so proud of them and the work they have accomplished.”
During the race, Raphaël had a strong strategy to climb on the podium. “We could change six tires throughout the race and we kept four for the end of the race, so we had an advantage on my competitors. It was a very long but intense race, sometimes we were three cars wide, it was exciting!”
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