MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Eighteen-year-old Canadian Raphael Lessard will embark on his first full season in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports next year.
Lessard will pilot the No. 4 Tundra and compete for Rookie of the Year honors. The team also announced Thursday that ARCA Menards Series champion Christian Eckes will drive the No. 18 Toyota for the team full-time next season.
Lessard made five NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts this year, three of those coming with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Across his five starts he posted two top-10 finishes and average finish of 11.1.
In addition to a limited schedule in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series this season, Lessard posted 83 laps led, two top-five and three top-10 finishes across three ARCA Menards Series starts and one win, one top-five and two top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series.
“I’ve been working really hard the last few years to put myself in position to drive full-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series — so this opportunity is a dream come true,” Lessard said. “I can’t thank Kyle and everyone at KBM, Toyota and TRD enough for having the confidence to put me in their truck and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of my parents and everyone that has invested in getting me to this point. Being able to drive for such a great organization in one of NASCAR’s top three series is going to be awesome and I’m going to work hard on and off the race track to learn as much as I can to get better every race.”
“We’ve watched Raphael grow as both a driver and a person since joining our Super Late Model program in 2018 and we’re looking forward to being a part of his continued progression as he graduates to a full-time role in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series next year,” said team owner Kyle Busch said. “Similar to Erik Jones and Christopher Bell before him, Raphael joined our Super Late Model program and immediately won some big races. Then, when given a part-time Truck Series schedule, they all proved capable of running up front and earned the right to compete full time. Erik and Christopher went on to win races and a championship in trucks, now Raphael has the opportunity to continue to follow their blueprint.”
“Raphael has continued to prove himself as an outstanding race car driver,” said Jack Irving, Senior Manager, Commercial Director, Toyota Racing Development. “He has shown poise behind the wheel and has achieved solid results in the opportunities he’s been presented with thus far. We look forward to watching him grow and achieve even more with this full-time opportunity in 2020 behind the wheel of a Kyle Busch Motorsports Tundra.”
Lessard won two marquee events driving KBM’s famed No. 51 Super Late Model in 2018; the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and the Redbud 400 ARCA/CRA Super Series race at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway.
Sponsor and crew chief announcements for Lessard are forthcoming as well as announcements on the rest of the KBM driver lineup for 2020.