By: Ashley McCubbin
Even though the season has not started off as Raphael Lessard would have hoped, confidence is there as he heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the third race of 2021. As he looks to turn his year around, the driver of the No. 24 Camping World Chevrolet Silverado shared his thoughts with NEWS FROM THE PITS.
ASHLEY MCCUBBIN: What are your thoughts heading into this weekend at Las Vegas?
RAPHAEL LESSARD: I’m really excited going to Las Vegas. I know I have a lot to learn on the mile-and-a-halves. They’re quite different than short track, road course and superspeedway, but last year I got better at it so I’m just going to working at it and keep improving. I know I’ll have a good truck from GMS. They always do a great job to get me some speed in my truck everywhere I go. I’m excited so we’ll see how it goes. We’re starting 13th so we’ll take it one segment at a time and hopefully we’re there at the end.
ASHLEY: What makes Las Vegas different from other intermediates on the schedule?
RAPHAEL: I would say it’s pretty similar, but Vegas, you’re always drafting each other. The throttle on time is so big and you’re always drafting with each other and you have to really play well with the track in traffic and it sometimes can mess you up, especially on restarts. You just have to be on your game and find the grip, knowing when to go to the top and sometimes go to the bottom. You can really search around there and usually the spring and fall race are usually pretty different. I’m excited to see how the track is this weekend.
ASHLEY: You’re one of the many who will carry the Camping World colours this weekend. What are your thoughts on the program Marcus launched?
RAPHAEL: I mean, it’s awesome what he’s doing right now. We need more people like him in the sport. Camping World, big thank you to them and everything they do for NASCAR. It’s a huge help for all the teams that are looking and trying to find sponsors, especially me. I’m trying to budget and try and figure out the rest of the season and working really hard with my team to find new some new sponsors, and when we saw this opportunity, we had to do this. So I can’t thank Marcus enough for making it available for us and we’ll just go for it. It’s a challenge. If we win, we get $50,000 so hopefully we can get 50 grand – that’s the goal.
ASHLEY: What has it been like for you switching from KBM to GMS this year?
RAPHAEL: Obviously been a little adaptation and different a little bit, but GMS has welcome me very well. Just like a big family and I’m really excited for it, and the season so far, and what we’ve been working been on epically with Josh Wise and the Driver Edge Development Program; that’s been a huge help for me. I think it’s going to make me a a better racecar driver so I’m excited for that.
ASHLEY: Beyond Josh Wise, you’ve also got a good bunch of teammates to lean on. What has it been like working with them thus far?
RAPHAEL: It’s been going well. Obviously, my teammates are really fast and have really good speed everywhere we go. I can learn from them, challenge myself from that, and it’s been really fun so far. We’ve always been challenging so far, whether running outside, working out, or at the go-kart track trying to beat each other. It’s been really cool.
ASHLEY: Looking back on last year’s rookie campaign, where do you feel you need to improve to be stronger this year?
RAPHAEL: I mean, there’s a lot I need to learn, but I think a little more experience right now in last year driving those mile-and-a-halves has been a huge help. I’m just really looking forward to this year. With the experience I gained last year, I think I am a way better driver than I was. I think I just need to get better overall, get more seat time, and the more seat time I get, the better I’ll be at mile-and-a-halves, short tracks, road courses, superspeedways, and I want to be better at all of them as to win a championship, you’re going to have to be good at all them. I’m just going to keep working hard.
ASHLEY: You showed your speed at the superspeedways last season. What did it mean to you to score your first win at Talladega last season?
RAPHAEL: It means a lot to me. It was a dream come true. It showed that I belong with the best in the series so it was big confidence booster for sure. I don’t know how I’ve had so much speed on superspeedways. I guess it’s from watching film and trying to learn from the best. Daytona last year was my first superspeedway – it went really well; Talladega was my first win ,and Daytona this year, we were really fast once again. Superspeedways have been pretty good so far. I’ve had one win, and then I’ve had some bad luck.
ASHLEY: What track are you most looking forward to this year?
RAPHAEL: I would say the Circuit of the Americas – the road course, because nobody has been there, nobody knows what to expect, so that should be a lot of fun. But I’m also excited to go back to Darlington. I thought that race was really fun last year going there for the first time. I’m excited for all of them, honestly. They all have something special.
ASHLEY: Given your road to this point, what would be one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to make it?
RAPHAEL: Keep on working hard and believe in yourself, and even when there’s years that are tough, and then there’s that everything goes well and you win a championship, you have to keep working at it and never give up. That’s my advice – to keep on going.