OBSERVATIONS: UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway

There’s always talk about the action picking up when it is playoff time, and that is certainly appearing to be the case in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series as they started off their post-season with a bang.

Throughout the entire UNOH 200, the playoff drivers were mixing it up with not only each other, but their fellow competitors on the track. Nobody appeared to be giving each other an inch, with bumps being traded throughout the field, and some going around as a result. 

The fans have been asking for the old Bristol to come back, and if Thursday night is any indication, they got their wish. It’s easy to see why they wanted the bottom groove to be prime real estate as sparks flew, with drama throughout the night.

Certainly the drivers who grew up running tracks of this style with a rough edge to their driving enjoy it. Just ask Ross Chastain.

“That’s what built this place,” he said. “You come through this tunnel, and there’s talk about rattling cages, there’s helmets thrown. If we’re going to fill these places up, the CarShield Chevy’s going to be the one that adds to the excitement.”

He certainly made true on that promise, certainly throwing his elbows up each time he got the chance. He ran up inside the top-five from the drop of the green flag until the pit crew was deemed for “too many men over the wall.” Restarting at the tail of the field, he made his way up through the field – aggressively with his fair share of bump and runs for his competitors in the process, ultimately spinning Raphael Lessard.

His driving wasn’t well received post-race, as he was met by a couple crew members of Kyle Busch Motorsports.

“I think the crew chiefs come down here and puff their chests out—they’re old washed-up race car drivers,” Chastain said. “I love Marcus (Richmond) and Rudy (Fugle), but, my goodness, let your drivers come handle it. And one at a time, line ‘em up, and let’s race. And let’s handle it after, outside the race car.”

Chastain’s aggressive nature has been put under the microscope before, with other competitors in the garage area expressing their opinions. It also resulted in Justin Allgaier spinning him in an NASCAR Xfinity Series race following contact. 

Well it’s clear that he knows how to dish it, it could easily come back to bite him. Kyle Busch Motorsports doesn’t have a truck in the playoffs, but they could affect the outcome if they resort to payback for Chastain. It could also easily be someone else.

Does Chastain want his aggressive fellow competitors to be the reason why he doesn’t complete his ultimate Watermelon Man Challenge of winning the championship? 

But rest assured, he is not the only playoff driver in the midst of controversy with Stewart Friesen and Matt Crafton trading jabs at each other during the event. Both competitors finished in the top-10, and talked about their differences following the event. Experience tells them to make sure feuds are put to bed, right?



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Raphael Lessard Grabs Checkered Flag in Series Debut

VALLEE-JONCTION, Que — If anyone had any doubts about Raphael Lessard being the real deal, they were quickly crushed.

Lessard, who grew up minutes from Autodrome Chaudiere in St. Joseph de Beauce, Quebec, made his presence known, winning the Budweiser 300 in dominating fashion in his series debut. The 17-year-old Kyle Busch Motorsports and Toyota Racing Development driver became the first to claim the checkered flag in their series debut since Don Thomson Jr won the inaugural NASCAR Pinty’s Series race in 2007.

Lessard’s No.07 Societies Louis Jacques/ FRL Express Dodge used its speed on the restarts to take the lead from teammate LP Dumoulin on Lap 137 and never looked back. Lessard was able to hold off all who challenged him, until the race was called on Lap 286 when rain came pouring down.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” Lessard said. “At first, I thought our car was okay, and on new tires it wasn’t great but as the race went on it just seemed to get better and better. Everyone seemed to fall off and we just didn’t.”

“I’m super pumped and can’t thank everyone enough,” Lessard added. “It’s just awesome to do a deal like this for one race and dominate. I’ve never worked with those guys before, it just feels great.”

Following a strong first two events, Kevin Lacroix added another podium to make it three in a row in 2019. Lacroix started fifth and slowly fought his way up the field before settling for his second straight runner-up finish.

“We always have a hard time here and we were targeting top 5 maybe top 6 and we would’ve been really happy,” Lacroix said. “And now second place, top contender. Everything is very nice for us, we’re really happy, gaining a lot of points, taking the points lead.”

Pole sitter and 2016 Chaudiere winner Alex Labbe led the early going before being passed by Dumoulin and Lessard. Labbe would fight his way to a third-place finish, his first podium since his one-off race at GP3R last season.

Jukasa winner Andrew Ranger and Alex Tagliani rounded out the top five.

Mark Dilley scored his second top ten of the season in sixth, followed by CBRT’s Brett Taylor in seventh, notching his best career NASCAR finish.

Despite being laps down at certain points in the race, Brandon White was able to defy the odds and score his best career finish in eighth. Simon Dion-Viens also recovered after numerous spins for a ninth-place finish, with Donald Theetge completing the top ten.

Lap 271 saw a turning points in the race after LP Dumoulin and Jason Hathaway crashed in turn three to draw the red flag.

The Budweiser 300 will air on TSN on Saturday, July 6 at 2 p.m. and RDS2 on Monday, July 15 at 7 p.m.

The NASCAR Pinty’s Series will take a few weeks off before arriving in the heart of Canada’s largest metropolis for the Pinty’s Grand Prix of Toronto live from the Streets of Exhibition Place.