Bill Lester

American racing driver

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NASCAR driver

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Bill Lester

Lester in 2008
Born William Alexander Lester III
(1961-02-06) February 6, 1961 (age 63)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Achievements First African-American to win a Rolex Sports Car Series race (Virginia International Raceway, 2011, GT Class)
NASCAR Cup Series career
2 races run over 1 year
Best finish 68th (2006)
First race 2006 Golden Corral 500 (Atlanta)
Last race 2006 3M Performance 400 (Michigan)
Wins Top tens Poles
0 0 0
NASCAR Xfinity Series career
1 race run over 1 year
Best finish 111th (1999)
First race 1999 Lysol 200 (Watkins Glen)
Wins Top tens Poles
0 0 0
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career
143 races run over 9 years
2021 position 89th
Best finish 13th (2003)
First race 2000 Line-X 225 (Portland)
Last race 2021 Fr8Auctions 200 (Atlanta)
Wins Top tens Poles
0 7 3
Rolex Sports Car Series
Years active 1998–2001, 2007–2012
Starts 52
Wins 1
Poles 2
Best finish 3rd in 2011
Last updated on: December 30, 2021.

William Alexander Lester III (born February 6, 1961) is an American semi-retired professional racing driver. He last competed part-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, driving the No. 17 Ford F-150 for David Gilliland Racing. Lester previously competed full-time in the Truck Series from 2002 to midway through 2007. Lester was the NASCAR’s only full-time African-American driver during that time. After that, he moved to sports car racing, competing in the Rolex Sports Car Series from 2007 to 2012. Lester had also competed part-time in the same series from 1998 to 2001.

He also made two NASCAR Cup Series starts in 2006 and one Busch Series (now Xfinity) start in 1999.

Since his retirement from driving, Lester has worked as a member of the NASCAR National Motorsports Appeals Panel.[1]

Racing career[edit]

Early career[edit]

He began racing in the road course circuits, running in the SCCA and IMSA series. He made his IMSA debut in 1989 at Sears Point International Raceway, qualifying ninth and finishing 12th in a Chevrolet Camaro. He also picked up a victory that year in an endurance race at Sears Point. In 1990, he began running the SCCA, running an unsponsored Oldsmobile Cutlass for Rocketsports at Portland, and one race for Tom Gloy at Mid-Ohio. He did not race professionally again until 1996, running SCCA events at Watkins Glen, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Sears Point, and Reno, Nevada. He competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1998 and 1999, finishing fifth and tenth, respectively.

NASCAR[edit]

In 1999, he became the first African-American to run a Busch Series race, when he ran at Watkins Glen in the No. 8 Dura Lube Chevrolet Monte Carlo owned by Bobby Hillin Jr. He started 24th and ran near a top-ten most of the day before an accident relegated him back to 21st. The next season, he made his Craftsman Truck debut at Portland, starting 31st and finishing 24th in the No. 23 Red Line Oil truck owned by Team 23 Racing. He also competed against Bobby Norfleet in that race, marking the only time in NASCAR two African-Americans have competed in the same race. He ran five races the next season in the No. 4 for Bobby Hamilton Racing, his best finish an eighteenth at Phoenix International Raceway.

In 2002, he ran in the Craftsman Truck series full-time for Hamilton. While he did not finish in the top-ten, he had sixteen finishes between 11th-18th, leading to a seventeenth-place points finish and runner-up to Brendan Gaughan for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie of the Year. The next season, he grabbed his first career pole at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and had a tenth-place run at Kansas Speedway, garnering a 14th-place finish in the championship standings.

He switched over to Bill Davis Racing in 2004. He had a best finish of tenth and finished 22nd in points. In 2005, he won two consecutive poles, and had his first top-five finishes. Lester raced in his first Nextel Cup race in the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, driving the No. 23 Waste Management Dodge Charger for Davis in 2006. The race was supposed to be run on March 19, but was postponed for a day due to rain. He qualified 19th, becoming the first African-American to make a Cup race since 1986, and the sixth in series history. He finished 38th, six laps down. He ran another race that season at Michigan, finishing 32nd. He later DNQed at California after spinning in qualifying.

After failing to finish in the top-ten in 2006, Lester departed Davis to drive the No. 15 Billy Ballew Motorsports Chevy. His best finish was an eighth at Kentucky, when he stepped out of the truck due to sponsor problems. After he was unable to find another ride in NASCAR, he left in 2008 to return to sports car racing.

On February 26, 2021, Lester announced on NASCAR Race Hub that he would be coming out of retirement to compete in the Truck Series race at his home track of Atlanta, which was also the same track where he made his Cup Series debut at in 2006.[2] The team was revealed as David Gilliland Racing on March 12, with local Ford dealerships and Camping World as his sponsors.[3] He finished 36th.

Return to sports cars[edit]

2011 Rolex Sports Car Series GT car

In 2008, Lester drove the No. 3 Riley Daytona Prototype for Southard Motorsports in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, partnering with Shane Lewis. He moved to Orbit Racing for 2009, finishing 3rd at the summer Daytona race. The next year, Lester moved to a new team in Starworks Motorsport driving the No. 7 BMW Riley for the full season, finishing 17th in points.

For 2011, Lester moved to the GT category with Autohaus Motorsports and their Chevrolet Camaro team. On May 14, 2011, Lester made sports car history by becoming the first African-American driver to win in any Grand-Am division. Fittingly, Lester won at the Virginia International Raceway, located close to the home of NASCAR’s first African-American winner, Wendell Scott.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Lester’s father is William A. Lester. [5]

In 1984, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in EECS from the University of California, Berkeley.[6] Fresh out of college, he worked at Hewlett-Packard for 15 years before deciding to focus full-time on auto racing.[7]

Lester lives in Windermere, Florida with his wife Cheryl, and their sons William Alexander IV (Alex) and Austin Richard.[citation needed]

He published an autobiography, Winning in Reverse, in February 2021.[8]

Motorsports career results[edit]

NASCAR[edit]

(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)

Nextel Cup Series[edit]

NASCAR Nextel Cup Series results
Year Team No. Make 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 .mw-parser-output .tooltip-dotted{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}NNCC Pts Ref
2006 Bill Davis Racing 23 Dodge DAY CAL LVS ATL
38
BRI MAR TEX PHO TAL RCH DAR CLT DOV POC MCH
32
SON DAY CHI NHA POC IND GLN MCH BRI CAL
DNQ
RCH NHA DOV KAN TAL CLT MAR ATL TEX PHO HOM 68th 67 [9]

Busch Series[edit]

NASCAR Busch Series results
Year Team No. Make 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 NBSC Pts Ref
1999 Robert Hayes Racing 8 Chevy DAY CAR LVS ATL DAR TEX NSV BRI TAL CAL NHA RCH NZH CLT DOV SBO GLN
21
MLW MYB PPR GTY IRP MCH BRI DAR RCH DOV CLT CAR MEM PHO HOM 111th 100 [10]

Camping World Truck Series[edit]

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series results
Year Team No. Make 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 NCWTC Pts Ref
2000 Team 23 Racing 23 Chevy DAY HOM PHO MMR MAR PIR
24
GTY MEM PPR EVG TEX KEN GLN MLW NHA NZH MCH IRP NSV CIC RCH
DNQ
DOV TEX CAL 86th 122 [11]
2001 Bobby Hamilton Racing 4 Dodge DAY HOM MMR MAR GTY
36
DAR PPR
20
DOV TEX MEM MLW KAN KEN NHA IRP NSH
30
CIC NZH RCH SBO
32
TEX LVS PHO
18
CAL 59th 304 [12]
2002 8 DAY
18
DAR
28
MAR
25
GTY
17
PPR
15
DOV
12
TEX
11
MEM
17
MLW
18
KAN
29
KEN
14
NHA
14
MCH
15
IRP
28
NSH
16
RCH
36
TEX
28
SBO
17
LVS
17
CAL
14
PHO
15
HOM
18
17th 2320 [13]
2003 DAY
18
DAR
12
MMR
13
MAR
19
CLT
15
DOV
11
TEX
12
MEM
26
MLW
12
KAN
10
KEN
12
GTW
22
MCH
11
IRP
28
NSH
16
BRI
19
RCH
30
NHA
13
CAL
28
LVS
20
SBO
23
TEX
28
MAR
22
PHO
20
HOM
18
14th 2712 [14]
2004 Bill Davis Racing 22 Toyota DAY
16
ATL
15
MAR
17
MFD
30
CLT
21
DOV
25
TEX
12
MEM
23
MLW
34
KAN
28
KEN
29
GTW
10
MCH
18
IRP
31
NSH
31
BRI
14
RCH
29
NHA
27
LVS
24
CAL
28
TEX
28
MAR
14
PHO
18
DAR
16
HOM
24
22nd 2400 [15]
2005 DAY
29
CAL
16
ATL
21
MAR
26
GTY
12
MFD
18
CLT
6
DOV
30
TEX
22
MCH
16
MLW
15
KAN
5
KEN
22
MEM
35
IRP
18
NSH
7
BRI
25
RCH
14
NHA
25
LVS
32
MAR
32
ATL
19
TEX
11
PHO
21
HOM
5
17th 2672 [16]
2006 DAY
35
CAL
15
ATL
29
MAR
24
GTY
30
CLT
DNQ
MFD
24
DOV
30
TEX
22
MCH
33
MLW
15
KAN
23
KEN
28
MEM
25
IRP
14
NSH
21
BRI
16
NHA
35
LVS
19
TAL
31
MAR
12
ATL
22
TEX
21
PHO
20
HOM
11
20th 2252 [17]
2007 Billy Ballew Motorsports 15 Chevy DAY
11
CAL
20
ATL
30
MAR
36
KAN
16
CLT
19
MFD
21
DOV
35
TEX
18
MCH
15
MLW
24
MEM
12
KEN
8
IRP
16
NSH
20
BRI GTW NHA LVS TAL MAR ATL TEX PHO HOM 23rd 1550 [18]
2021 David Gilliland Racing 17 Ford DAY DAY LVS ATL
36
BRI RCH KAN DAR COA CLT TEX NSH POC KNX GLN GTW DAR BRI LVS TAL MAR PHO 89th 1 [19]

* Season still in progress
1 Ineligible for series points

References[edit]

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  1. ^ .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit;word-wrap:break-word}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .citation:target{background-color:rgba(0,127,255,0.133)}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free.id-lock-free a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/65/Lock-green.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited.id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration.id-lock-registration a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription.id-lock-subscription a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Wikisource-logo.svg”)right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#2C882D;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}@media(prefers-color-scheme:dark){html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}}Glendenning, Mark (September 24, 2020). “NASCAR appeals panel upholds Wallace penalty”. RACER.
  2. ^ Srigley, Joseph (February 26, 2021). “Bill Lester Announces Intentions to Return to NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta”. TobyChristie.com.
  3. ^ “Bill Lester Returns to the NCWTS at Atlanta Motor Speedway”. David Gilliland Racing. March 12, 2021. Archived from the original on March 12, 2021. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  4. ^ “Action Express Takes Home $25,000 Bounty for Virginia International Raceway Win”. MotorRacingNetwork.com. 2013-09-28. Archived from the original on 2012-06-14. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  5. ^ “Love of racing is in his blood”. Chicago Tribune. 26 March 2006.
  6. ^ Biography of William Alexander Lester III, TheHistorymakers.org, March 10, 2018, Retrieved June 24, 2020
  7. ^ Former NASCAR Driver Discusses Competing as a Black Man, NPR Morning Edition, June 24, 2020, Retrieved June 24, 2020
  8. ^ Pruett, Marshall (February 2, 2021). “Catching Up With: Bill Lester”. RACER. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  9. ^ “Bill Lester – 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Results”. Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  10. ^ “Bill Lester – 1999 NASCAR Busch Grand National Series Results”. Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  11. ^ “Bill Lester – 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Results”. Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  12. ^ “Bill Lester – 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Results”. Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  13. ^ “Bill Lester – 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Results”. Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  14. ^ “Bill Lester – 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Results”. Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  15. ^ “Bill Lester – 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Results”. Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  16. ^ “Bill Lester – 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Results”. Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  17. ^ “Bill Lester – 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Results”. Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  18. ^ “Bill Lester – 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Results”. Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  19. ^ “Bill Lester – 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Results”. Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved December 30, 2021.

External links[edit]

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