Raphael Lessard in victory lane after a Super Late Model win at Southern National Motorsports Park. (Race22.com file photo)

Following events from Saturday night’s Pro All Stars Series Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway, David Gilliland Racing announced today they will make schedule adjustments to all of their super late model teams to avoid competing in any PASS-sanctioned events for the foreseeable future. “Unprofessional” behavior by race control and those in series management were cited as the primary reasons for the schedule change. The incidents in question involved DGR driver Raphael Lessard and his No. 99 team who originally crossed the line in second at the checkered flag on Saturday.

“We race all over the country and have interactions with various officials and sanctions from coast to coast,” said crew chief of the No. 99 Toyota for Raphael Lessard, Seth Smith. “Never in my entire career in racing have I been treated like I was on Saturday at Hickory by the PASS president and upper management. On-track, race control decisions are one thing – sometimes it’s your day and sometimes it isn’t. But to be singled out and treated with a blatant disregard for professionalism is something our team, our sponsors, our drivers and I refuse to be associated with.”

Four distinct incidents helped to define DGR’s decision on Tuesday. First, during an early caution where a slower, inexperienced driver was unable to get out of the way of the No. 99 car and the rest of the leaders quick enough to avoid an accident. The minor contact resulted in a spin and race control, led by series president Tom Mayberry, declared a $500 fine for “almost rough driving” to the No. 99 team, a penalty the team willfully accepted as they lined up to restart.

Soon thereafter, an accident occurred on a restart where Lessard was both the leader and the control car. Since the field did not complete a lap before the caution was displayed, series rules revert to the last completed lap for proper lineup. Upon repassing of a competitor who did not slow at the same rate as Lessard, race control once again issued a $500 fine to the No. 99 car, this time for passing under yellow.

“While we weren’t happy with their decisions during the race, we respected them as competitors and abided by their wishes,” Smith, who was also spotting for Lessard, explained after the race. “We still had a chance to win the race and we did not want to jeopardize that opportunity. It was during a lengthy cleanup that Mr. Mayberry sent one of his employees to the spotter stand near turn one to request I visit the tower. I complied immediately and quickly made my way to the center of the frontstretch.

“Upon arriving in the tower, I was greeted by Mr. Mayberry in a profanity-laced tirade addressing various subjects and incidents over the course of the night,” he continued. “I calmly attempted to explain our position but was routinely interrupted with more profanity and threats to disqualify us if we touched another car or another car touched us. After a few minutes, I politely dismissed myself from the tower as we were nearly ready to return to racing and I had a job to do.”

Finish of the 2017 Easter Bunny 150, which was won by Preston Peltier (33). Raphael Lessard (99) was stripped of “third place” finish. (LWPictures.com photo)

Lessard continued to race in the top three and was in the thick of the lead battle on the final restart with eventual winner Preston Peltier and PASS North regular Ben Rowe. He crossed the line in second, inches ahead of Rowe, in his first career Easter Bunny 150. Following the finish, Smith returned to the tower in hopes of calmly settling the matters which had race control request his visit earlier in the race.

“After the race, I visited the tower to explain to Mr. Mayberry that I did not appreciate how he treated me during our previous meeting,” Smith explained about the fourth incident of the night. “Whatever calls were made in the race were done and we had no reason to dispute them since we had a great second place run. However, before I could explain to Mr. Mayberry that his unprofessional actions were not appreciated earlier, he once again went into a profanity-laced tirade and threatened to disqualify us. I calmly reiterated that my visit had nothing to do with in-race decisions, that I simply did not appreciate his lack of professionalism. It was at that time he disqualified us and, although I had every reason to snap, I accepted his decision while reiterating that his behavior was not appreciated before exiting the tower.”

Prior to the race on Saturday night, Lessard and teammate Chase Purdy had multiple PASS-sanctioned races on their schedules including a handful of bigger-paying races later in the season. After Saturday night’s incidents, David Gilliland Racing has eliminated any PASS events from their schedules for the foreseeable future.

“Seth is one of the most calm, reasonable, and professional crew chiefs in short track racing and we stand behind everything he does on the pit box and the spotter stand,” said David Gilliland, owner and namesake of David Gilliland Racing. “While we’re proud of how he handled himself, we’re extremely disappointed in the actions of the series management when politely approached to discuss things following an event. Every other sanction with which we have raced welcomes rational discussions after competition has concluded. We owe it to our employees, our drivers, Toyota and our corporate partners to realign our schedule with more professional organizations who welcome us to their events.”

David Gilliland Racing will have multiple teams in action this weekend at multiple venues. Their NASCAR K&N Pro Series team and driver Chase Purdy is scheduled to compete at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night following the NASCAR Xfinity Series event while another group will crew a pro late model for New York driver Giovanni Bromante at the Southern National Motorsports Park in his fourth career race with the organization.

The next super late model events for David Gilliland Racing include a two-race weekend at the end of April with the Southern Super Series and the CARS Tour / CRA / Southern Super Series combination event at Bristol Motor Speedway in May, the US Nationals of Short Track Racing.

DGR offers complete, turnkey solutions for funded drivers and their families who want to take the next step in their careers. In addition to experienced crew chiefs, spotters and personal coaching from team owner David Gilliland, DGR fields a fleet of state-of-the-art PRW Racing Chassis for its late models and the most developed K&N chassis for the NASCAR development series. DGR is also one of a select few Toyota factory-backed and endorsed short track teams across various short track racing disciplines.

For more information on DGR, visit their website at DavidGillilandRacing.com, like them on Facebook (@DavidGillilandRacing), or follow them on Twitter (@DGR_Racing) and Instagram (@DGR_Racing).