Canadian Raphael Lessard wins wild Truck race at Talladega
Raphael Lessard interrupted the NASCAR Truck Series playoffs as the 19-year-old Canadian earned his first series win in a wild finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Stewart Friesen and Lessard led the way on a restart with two of 94 laps remaining and they were still side-by-side with one lap to go.
On the final lap, Friesen and Lessard both took turns blocking advances by other drivers and Friesen got turned, which ignited a wreck on the backstretch that put the race under caution.
When the caution was displayed, Lessard – who was getting a push from Ben Rhodes – was just ahead of Trevor Bayne and was awarded the victory.
The win is Lessard’s first in NASCAR national series competition in 24 career starts.
“Oh my gosh, that was awesome,” Lessard said. “First of all, I just want to thank everyone at home, my team Kyle Busch Motorsports. I can’t believe it. It’s just my second superspeedway race.
“To get my first Truck series win here is amazing. I don’t know who was behind me but he gave me a heck of a push. I can’t thank him enough. He pushed me as hard as I could and I was just along for the ride.
“The caution came out at the right time. I’m so happy. I got to do a burnout after the win. I’m hoping I can do some more.”
Lessard said he moved to Mooresville, N.C., in January and it’s been difficult not being able to see his family much with the COVID-19 restrictions. “It’s a crazy year to be the first time moving from home and my family’s in Quebec, Canada,” he said.
“I haven’t seen them in a while and I want to say to everyone. I needed that. We’ve had a tough season but this one feels really good.”
Bayne ended up second in the race, Chandler Smith was third, Rhodes fourth and Codie Rohrbaugh rounded out the top-five.
Two drivers – Christian Eckes and Todd Gilliland – were eliminated from further title competition in the playoffs.
Advancing to the semifinal round of the playoffs were Rhodes, Matt Crafton, Brett Moffitt, Sheldon Creed, Grant Enfinger, Tyler Ankrum, Austin Hill and Zane Smith.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, several drivers pit but Moffitt remained on the track and inherited the lead.
On the restart on Lap 45, Moffitt led the way followed by Creed, Derek Kraus, Ankrum and Johnny Sauter.
On Lap 47, Gilliland appeared to lose an engine while the pack was running on the backstretch. Tanner Gray got lost control of his truck while the field was checking up and crashed into the inside wall.
The race returned to green on Lap 54 with Moffitt leading the way followed by Creed and Kraus.
On Lap 55, Rhodes moved into the top spot and one lap later, Sauter took over the top spot.
With 30 laps remaining in race, Austin Hill and Kraus hit pit road for their final green-flag pit stop but Hill was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to serve a drive-through penalty.
Once the cycle of stops was completed on Lap 82, Creed cycled back into the lead followed by Moffitt and Kaz Grala.
With 10 laps remaining in the race, Creed maintained a small lead over Moffitt with Friesen in third.
On Lap 88, NASCAR displayed a caution for debris as Creed shredded a tire and fell off the pace. Friesen inherited the lead just before the caution.
Most of the lead-lap cars elected to pit but Friesen remained on the track and in the lead when the race returned to green with two laps to go in the race.
Kraus took the Stage 2 win under caution when a caution was displayed for a wreck with three laps remaining in the stage.
Sauter ended up second, Lessard third, Austin Hill fourth and Moffitt fifth.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, several trucks elected to pit with Eckes the first off pit road. He was penalized, however, for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field.
On the restart on Lap 26, Kraus led the way followed by Lessard and Sauter.
With 10 laps remaining in the second stage, Kraus continued to lead the way followed by Sauter and Chandler Smith.
On Lap 37, Gray cut down on Gus Dean in Turn 4, sending Dean spinning and crashing into the inside retaining wall.
The race was not able to get restart before the completion of the stage.
Austin Hill came out on top in a side-by-side duel with Creed to take the Stage 1 victory.
Gilliland ended up second, Eckes third, Rhodes fourth and Creed slipped to fifth.
Creed, who started on the pole, led the first lap, only to see Austin Hill take Lap 2 at the line and Creed pull back out front on Lap 3. Hill led at the line once again on Lap 5.
On lap 7, Enfinger’s Ford developed a tire run on his left-rear tire. He was forced to make a green-flag pit stop on Lap 11 for a flat tire.
On Lap 13, Creed had regained the lead but made contact with Austin Hill, which slowed up the field and started a chain reaction further back in the pack.
Chase Purdy went up the track and collected Johnny Sauter and also Zane Smith to start the wreck in Turns 3 and 4. By the time it was finished, 11 trucks were involved.
“Sucks,” said Zane Smith, whose race came to an early end. “They kept getting bunched up in front of me and my teammate got all out of shape and I was an innocent bystander.”
Among the others involved in the incident were Tate Fogleman, Austin Wayne Self, Korbin Forrister, Danny Bohn, Spencer Boyd, Dawson Cram and Clay Greenfield.
The race was placed under a red flag for nearly 5 minutes to clean the track of debris. The race returned to green with two laps remaining in the stage and Eckes leading the way.
Creed quickly reclaimed the lead after the restart in Turn 3.
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