Canadian driver Raphael Lessard earned his first win in the NASCAR Trucks playoffs at Talladega superspeedway despite interrupting the race and having a very wild finish.
Lessard and Stewart Friesen led the trucks on a restart with only two out of the 94 laps remaining and they raced side by side as only one lap was remaining to the end of the race. The two truck drivers took turns to block any advancing truck which led to Friesen getting turned, creating a crash that ignited in the backstretch as the race was put under caution.
Just as the caution was being displayed, Lessard emerged to be the race winner as he was getting a pushe from the back by Ben Rhodes and a fraction of a second ahead of Trevor Bayne. This win emerged to be the 19-year-old’s first win in the NASCAR National Series while having 24 career starts.
“Oh my gosh, that was awesome. 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.” Lessard said.
“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 also added by revealing his struggles since he moved to Mooresville N.C back in January, as it was very difficult for him to see his family much due to 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.”
Trevor Bayne ended up being second in the race as Chandler Smith closely followed in third place. Ben Rhodes and Codie Rohrbaugh finished fourth and fifth respectively rounding out the top five drivers in the race. Christian Eckes and Todd Gilliland were out of luck as they were eliminated from further title competition in the playoffs.
There was a break between stage 2 and 3 and several drivers headed to the pits but Brett Moffitt decided to remain on the track and took the lead. On the race restart on lap 45, Moffitt held on to the lead as Sheldon Creed, Derek Kraus, Johnny Sauter and Ankrum closely followed. Later on lap 47 Gilliland appeared to be experiencing issues with his truck as he was slowing down. Tanner Gray on the other hand lost control of his truck as the field was checking up and crashed onto the inside wall.
After the caution was out, the race resumed on lap 54 with Moffitt leading the pack as Creed and Kraus followed. On lap 55 Ben Rhodes was able to take the top spot, but a lap later the lead was snatched by Sauter. As there were only 30 laps remaining, Austin Hill and Derek Kraus headed to the pits for their final stop of the race but Hill was penalised for speeding at the pitlane and had to serve a drive through penalty.
When the stops were completed on lap 82, Sheldon Creed retook the lead as Brett Moffitt and Kaz Grala closely followed. As 10 laps were remaining to the conclusion of the race, Creed maintained a very small lead over Moffitt as Friesen followed being in the third position. NASCAR displayed a caution on lap 88 as Creed shredded a tyre and slowed down Friesen taking the lead even before the caution was out. He remained on the track even on the race restart as two laps were remaining, other trucks headed to the pits.
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.