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.
Canadian driver Raphael Lessard will return for a second season of driving a Super Late Model in the 2016 CARS Tour for David Gilliland Racing.
A native of Quebec, Lessard will once again pilot the No. 99 Toyota Camry as a development driver. Gilliland, a veteran NASCAR driver, began a development driver program in 2015 to offer a path for aspiring racers to transition from Karts or Legend Cars to larger NASCAR-style race cars.
Lessard learned his lessons from Gilliland well last season, finishing seventh in the points, including three top-10 finishes in the PASS North Super Late Model Series.
“David put together a great program with amazing people and I can’t wait to start where we left off last season,” Lessard said in a media release. “I am also looking forward to continue working with my crew chief Seth Smith and everybody at DGR.”
Lessard’s first race of 2016 is next week at New Smyrna (Florida) Speedway in the 50th annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in the Pro Late Model division.
In addition to competing on the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) circuit (first race will be the CARS Tour 300 on April 2 at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina), Lessard will also compete in several PASS South Series Super Late Model races.