Raphael Lessard scores first career Truck Series victory at Talladega

Albeit a last-lap crash that ended the Chevrolet Silverado 250 under caution, Raphael Lessard and Kyle Busch Motorsports utilized strategy to ride around the back of the filed before coming through to the front to collect his first Truck Series checkered flag in only his 24th start.

“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.” 

Prior to the final race in the Round of 10 for the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs race, two crew chiefs were ejected for a violation regarding vent holes in pre-race inspection. Those crew chiefs were the No. 52 of Trip Bruce for Stewart Friesen and the No. 9 of Doug George for Codie Rohrbaugh. Bruce was replaced by former Cup Series crew chief Jonathan Leonard, as Mark Huff, the General Manager for CR7 Motorsports, replaced George in the role.

Meanwhile, Kaz Grala subbed in for Natalie Decker in the No. 44 Niece Motorsports entry after Decker was not cleared to participate, due to medical reasons. Stages 20, 20 and 54 made up the 94-lap event.

Stage 1: Lap 1 – Lap 20

Through the first 10 laps or so of the first stage, the race was relatively calm. Unfortunately for playoff contender Grant Enfinger, the Alabaman suffered a left-rear tire rub on Lap 8, which forced him to pit as the tire eventually went flat. Though, the first caution flew on Lap 14, when several trucks were involved in a big crash in Turns 3 and 4. Those collected in the accident were Tate Fogleman, Joe Nemechek, Korbin Forrister, Zane Smith, Austin Wayne Self, Chase Purdy, Danny Bohn, Dawson Cram, Clay Greenfield, and Stewart Friesen.

Playoff driver Zane Smith would be out of the race early and had to wait and watch for the duration of the race to see if he would advance to the Round of 8.

The restart came with two to go but no more incidents were seen in the stage, which saw Las Vegas race winner Austin Hill take the stage victory. Gilliland, Eckes, Rhodes, Creed, Chandler Smith, Dean, Ankrum, Moffitt, and Tanner Gray completed the Top 10.

During the stage break, Eckes was penalized for being too fast on pit road and Creed clinched a playoff spot in the next round with help of his points cushion.

Stage 2: Lap 25 – Lap 40

The majority of the second stage was green until Lap 38, just two laps before the stage ended. Gus Dean in the No. 56 had his race end early when the No. 15 of Tanner Gray came down on Dean too soon off Turn 4 which caused Dean to go sliding and hitting the inside wall.

The stage ultimately ended under caution and Derek Kraus in the No. 19 Toyota grabbed the stage win. Sauter, Chandler Smith, Hill, Moffitt, Rhodes, Gilliland, Creed, Ankrum, and Crafton rounded out the Top 10 stage finishers for Stage 2.

By virtue of his finishing position through the first two stages, Moffitt clinched a playoff spot in the Round of 8.

Before the final stage restart, the Kyle Busch Motorsports trucks of Smith, Eckes, and Lessard came back down pit road to ride in the back for a little while.

Stage 3: Lap 44 – Lap 94

Another accident was seen on Lap 47 when the No. 15 of Gray crashed on the backstretch. Playoff driver Todd Gilliland blew up as well, which ended his championship hopes, and was out of the Playoffs. Fox Sports 1’s replay showed that Gray had some small help from the No. 16 of Austin Hill. Meanwhile, the No. 98 of Enfinger was finally back on the lead lap by receiving the free pass, after spending most of the race two laps down.

During the caution flag, Lessard was penalized for being too fast on pit road.

As the 250-mile race neared its end, race teams started to make their final pit stops with 30 laps to go with Austin Hill being the first to pit. Unfortunately for Hill, the Georgia native was too fast on pit road and had to serve a penalty.

While most of the lead lap trucks had pitted, two drivers, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Bryan Dauzat, were playing pit strategy by staying out and hoping for a late caution flag. However, as normally happens in racing, plans don’t always go according to plan. The lead pack caught up to Jo Cobb with 12 laps to go and Sheldon Creed was back up front.

Creed’s lead was short-lived, however, as the Californian had a right-rear tire go flat, leaving debris on the racetrack and causing a yellow flag with eight laps to go.

The final restart came with two to go, with Stewart Friesen and Tyler Ankrum restarting on the front row. Eventual race winner, Lessard, restarted in the third position.

Once the drivers entered the backstretch on the final lap, the trucks started to wiggle back and forth due to the bump drafting, including Lessard’s. But the drafting became too much for some as a crash broke out behind the race leaders and the race ended under yellow due to the crash.

There was some confusion as to who the winner was based on the timing of the yellow, and whether it was Trevor Bayne or Lessard out front. After a few moments, NASCAR determined that Raphael Lessard was the winner of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.

There were five cautions for 24 laps and 14 lead changes among 10 different leaders.

Unfortunately for drivers Christian Eckes and Todd Gilliland, both drivers were eliminated from the Playoffs.

Round of 8 Playoff Standings

  1. Austin Hill, +12
  2. Sheldon Creed, +12
  3. Zane Smith, +6
  4. Grant Enfinger, +4
  5. Brett Moffitt, -3
  6. Ben Rhodes, -3
  7. Matt Crafton, -10
  8. Tyler Ankrum, -16

Official Results following the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.

  1. Raphael Lessard
  2. Trevor Bayne, led one lap
  3. Chandler Smith, led one lap
  4. Ben Rhodes (Playoff driver)
  5. Codie Rohrbaugh
  6. Jordan Anderson
  7. Brett Moffitt (Playoff driver), led 13 laps
  8. Matt Crafton (Playoff driver)
  9. Kaz Grala
  10. Derek Kraus, won Stage 2, led 19 laps
  11. Johnny Sauter, led 11 laps
  12. Sheldon Creed (Playoff driver), led 10 laps
  13. Grant Enfinger (Playoff driver)
  14. Clay Greenfield
  15. Bayley Currey
  16. Tyler Ankrum (Playoff driver)
  17. Stewart Friesen, led six laps
  18. Christian Eckes, led six laps, Eliminated from Playoff contention, OUT, Accident
  19. Austin Hill (Playoff driver), led 11 laps, OUT, Accident
  20. Austin Wayne Self, 1 lap down
  21. Bryan Dauzat, 1 lap down
  22. Norm Benning, 1 lap down
  23. Josh Reaume, 1 lap down
  24. Jennifer Jo Cobb, led 16 laps, 2 laps down
  25. Jason White, 2 laps down
  26. Robby Lyons, 2 laps down
  27. Ray Ciccarelli, 6 laps down
  28. Todd Gilliland, OUT, Engine, Eliminated from Playoff Contention
  29. Tanner Gray, OUT, Accident
  30. Gus Dean, OUT, Accident
  31. Tate Fogleman, OUT, Accident
  32. Chase Purdy, OUT, Accident
  33. Zane Smith (Playoff driver), OUT, Accident
  34. Danny Bohn, OUT, Accident
  35. Dawson Cram, OUT, Accident
  36. Korbin Forrister, OUT, Accident
  37. Joe Nemechek, OUT, Accident
  38. Spencer Boyd, OUT, Accident

Up Next: The NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series will take a week off before returning to Kansas Speedway for the third time this season to mark the beginning of the Round of 8 Playoffs.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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