Over the Christmas holiday it was announced that Raphael Lessard has been signed as the newest driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
A native of St-Joseph-de-Beauce, Quebec, Canada, the 16-year-old will compete for KBM part-time in about 20 Late Model races next year.
Lessard is the 2016 CARS Super Late Model Tour champion, having won four races that season.
In 2017, Lessard earned 15 top 10s and seven top fives in 17 races in various series as a TRD development driver.
“It’s fantastic what happens to me, it’s definitely the most beautiful Christmas present I could hope (for),” Lessard said in a statement on his Facebook page. “I thank my parents, Jack Irving (Director, Team & Support Services at Toyota Racing Development), Toyota TRD, investors in the limited partnership and my sponsors without whom it would not be possible. My parents make so much sacrifice for me.” Lessard will make his KBM debut on Jan. 27-28 in the ARCA/CRA Super Series Speedfest 200 at Crisp Motorsports Park in Cordelle, Georgia.
Lessard looks to join the growing list of names of young drivers who have had their careers launched via Kyle Busch Motorsports. The 2015 Cup champion has facilitated paths through NASCAR’s ranks for William Byron, Erik Jones and Christopher Bell.
Byron and Jones will both be in the Cup Series in 2018 and Bell will compete in his rookie season in the Xfinity Series.
Jimmie Johnson is in his 17th year of full-time Cup racing and is in the midst the longest winless streak of his career at 42 races.
But the seven-time champion’s competitive drive is as strong as ever.
Johnson sat down with NBC Sports’ Dale Jarrett to discuss his career at this point in the latest edition of Driver-to-Driver.
“I can honestly say I spend more time now than I did my rookie year focusing on my job,” Johnson said. “I think that the support I have from my wife (Chandra), my kids are 7 and 4, to have them watch me be passionate about something has another meaning I didn’t anticipate coming. I’m lovin’ what I’m doing. I wish the results were a little better than what we have right now, but the process of what I’m going through is really fun.”
Hendrick Motorsports as a whole is in a slump. The team is in the middle of the second longest winless streak in its history at 35 races.
Johnson admits it’s hard to know when the right time will be for him to retire.
“The thing I can pull out of it is, don’t pick a number, make sure that fire’s gone out and that fire hasn’t gone out,” Johnson said. “The other thing that’s weighing on me, I don’t want to go out not at my fullest potential and not on my terms. The last thought that’s going to run through my mind is to walk away or, ‘Oh, it’s not going right, time to stop.’ Uh uh. I know I still got it. I’m going to go down swinging. I’ve got a lot to prove still.”
Watch the above video for more.
The Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is in a rain delay.
The race was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET. The start time had been moved up from 2 p.m. ET due to the threat of weather.
Kurt Busch is on the pole and Martin Truex Jr. will start second.
Check back for more.
Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver rediscovers his magic here and locks into the playoffs.
Martin Truex Jr. wins back-to-back races for the first time in his career.
Kevin Harvick earns a career-best sixth win of the season.
Martin Truex Jr. is getting into the same groove he had last year. This week he catches Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Next week, he starts to pull away,
The Cup Series holds its only race of the year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway today with the Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301.
Kurt Busch starts on the pole and Martin Truex Jr. starts second.
Here’s all the info you need for today’s race.
(All times are Eastern)
START: The command to start engines will be given by Jean Swift, treasurer of Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Counsel, at 12:51 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 1 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 301 laps (318.46 miles) around the 1.058-mile track.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 75. Stage 2 ends on Lap 150.
COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 35
PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 11 a.m. Driver introductions are at 12:05 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Vanessa Salvucci will perform the anthem at 12:45 p.m. The Canadian National Anthem will be performed by Kirk Young at 12:42 p.m.
TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race beginning at 1 p.m. Coverage begins at noon with Countdown to Green on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at noon p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.
FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 70 degrees and a 78 percent chance of rain and storms at the start of the race.
LAST TIME: Denny Hamlin won this race last year over Kyle Larson. Kyle Busch won the playoff race over Larson.
TO THE REAR: Landon Cassill (backup) and Michael McDowell (backup).
STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the complete starting lineup.