Concord, North Carolina (April 4, 2017) – In a town known for its rich country music tradition, Nashville, Tennessee will play host this weekend to the Music City 200 on April 8 as the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards returns to the track after nearly a two month hiatus.
Among those eagerly waiting to showcase their talent is fifteen year-old newcomer Raphaël Lessard.
Lessard, a Toyota Racing Development (TRD) driver out of Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce, Quebec Canada, will make his ARCA Series debut driving the No.25 Musselman’s BIG CUP Apple Sauce Camry for Venturini Motorsports (VMS).
Relatively unknown in the U.S. prior to the 2016 racing season, Lessard jumped onto the short track scene winning four CARS Late Model Stock Tour events en route to the CARS championship last season driving for David Gilliland Racing (DGR).
Continuing his career development, Lessard signed with VMS during the off-season and will compete in three ARCA races. In addition to Nashville, the highly touted teenager will appear at Salem Speedway on April 30 and the high banks of Winchester Speedway on August 6.
“At this stage in my career this is the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had,” said Lessard. “I can’t thank Toyota and Venturini (Motorsports) enough for believing in me. Of course I’d love to go out and deliver a win, I’m a race car driver, but that’s not the main goal. I’m not going to put that type of pressure on myself for my first ARCA race. My focus is to race to the best of my ability and not force anything, keep it nice and smooth and finish all 200-laps.”
Lessard, whose native language is French, will be paired with veteran chief Dave Leiner for each of his ARCA starts. Leiner, with over 35-years of racing experience and countless trips to victory lane, will provide the younger driver with a solid foundation going into this first series start.
“We had a good test two weeks ago, working with a new team and new crew chief takes time to adjust, but I felt good, Dave Leiner made it really easy for me. I just hope he feels the same and can understand me over the radio,” said Lessard with a smile. “Dave will help me behind the wheel and I’ll help him with his French.”
Meeting the series’ minimum age requirement, Lessard will be among the youngest drivers competing in ARCA’s first short track race of the season. Hoping to follow in the tire tracks of former VMS and DGR teammate, Todd Gilliland, Lessard hopes to be the next 15-year old to win in his series debut. Gilliland, winning with VMS at Toledo Speedway in 2015 holds the series record.
Distracted Driving Awareness Month – Raphaël Lessard, a member of Musselman’s ‘Family of Drivers’ will help kick-off April and Distracted Driving Awareness month promoting the ‘Nikki Kellenyi Foundation-People Against Distracted Driving’ (PADD®) as part of Musselman’s safe driving initiative. Lessard will make local appearances and deliver PADD’s® message to fans and local media throughout the Nashville race weekend. Follow along on social media viewing #MusselmansRacing, #MusselmansCares and #FamilyMatters.
Lessard, part of VMS’ three team effort, will join Toyota teammates, Zane Smith and Christian Eckes in Nashville.
VMS, an official Toyota Racing Development team, is widely known for their ARCA success recording 43-team victories during their longstanding series involvement. Thirty of VMS’s all-time victories have been recorded since 2008.
Saturday’s Music City 200 presented by Azure Foundation marks the 26th ARCA race at Fairgrounds Speedway since its debut on the famous short track in 1959. The event will air LIVE on MAVTV with broadcast coverage beginning at 8 p.m. CST. Follow ARCARacing.com or @VenturiniMotor on Twitter for weekend updates.
For more information on Raphaël Lessard visit Facebook.com/RaphaelLessardRacing or @Raphael_Lessard on Twitter.