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Christian Eckes, Raphael Lessard to Compete Full Time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2020

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

Kyle Busch Motorsports has tabbed a pair of teenagers for its NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series lineup in 2020.

18-year-old Raphael Lessard and 19-year-old Christian Eckes will each pilot full-time entries for KBM, the team announced Nov. 14.

Both will compete for rookie of the year honors.

Eckes, the 2019 ARCA Menards Series champion, will pilot the No. 18 Toyota Tundra and will carry full-season sponsorship from Safelite Auto Glass.

“Christian has won races and a championship in the ARCA Series, and we feel like he’s capable of doing the same driving for us full-time in the Truck Series next year,” owner Kyle Busch said in a team statement. “He’s shown speed while running a part-time schedule for us the past couple of seasons — he’s won poles, led laps and been in a position to win a few races. We feel like it’s just a matter of time before he puts everything together and starts winning at this level.”

In addition to competing full time in ARCA this season, Eckes has also tallied seven Truck starts for KBM and has netted two top fives and three top 10s. The New Yorker has also tabulated three pole awards.

“Returning to KBM to compete full-time for a NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship with the support of Safelite AutoGlass and Toyota is an opportunity that I’ve worked my whole life for and I’m ready to take advantage of it,” Eckes said. “Being around the Truck Series the last few seasons, I’ve been able to see firsthand how much effort Safelite puts into their racing program, and I’m excited to represent them not only on the track, but in the communities that we race in.”

Lessard, who cut his teeth on several Canadian late-model circuits, will wheel the No. 4 Toyota.

“Raphael has continued to prove himself as an outstanding race car driver,” Jack Irving, senior manager and commercial director for Toyota Racing Development, said. “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.”

Like Eckes, Lessard has limited NGOTS experience. This season, Lessard made his Truck debut at Martinsville Speedway in March, where he finished 14th for KBM. Since then, Lessard has made four additional starts, splitting time between KBM and DGR-Crosley. The Canadian earned a best finish of ninth at Iowa Speedway while driving for DGR-Crosley.

“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.”

Crew chief details were not disclosed in the Nov. 14 announcement.

The announcement confirms the departure of Todd Gilliland from the team at the end of the 2019 season. Harrison Burton, the team’s other full-time driver in 2019, had already been announced as departing to Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series next year.

KBM has not yet confirmed its lineup for its No. 51 for 2020, though it’s assumed team owner Busch will compete in that truck for his allotted races.

About the author

Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.

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