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Bill Lester was born William Alexander Lester III on February 6, 1961, in Washington, D.C. The Lesters moved to San Francisco, California where Lester was raised. Immediately after completing high school, he attended the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his B.S. in electrical engineering and computer science in 1984.
After graduating from college, Lester began working for Hewlett-Packard. He remained working there for several years before deciding to pursue a career in race car driving. He began racing in road course circuits. In 1989, he participated in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) series. In 1990, he participated in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) series.
When Lester began racing in the SCCA, he drove an unsponsored Oldsmobile Cutlass. He raced once more for Tom Gloy but did not race professionally again for several years. He returned to professional racing in 1996. He competed in the 24-hour-long Daytona race in 1998 and 1999; in 1998, he finished fifth and in 1999, he finished tenth.
In 1999, Lester became the first Black person to run a Busch Series race. He started the race in the 24th position and remained in the top ten positions for most of the race. An accident knocked him down to the 21st position. In 2000, he made his Craftsman Truck debut at Portland. He started 31st and ended 24th. This race marked a pivotal moment in history: Lester competed against Bobby Norfleet. This was the only race in NASCAR history where two Black drivers raced.
In 2002, Lester raced in the Craftsman Truck series full-time. He finished 16 races, placing between 11th-18th. The following season, he landed his first pole position and came in tenth place. In 2006, he raced in the first Nextel Cup. He qualified 19th, making him the first Black driver to make a Cup race since 1986 and the sixth in series history. He left NASCAR in late 2007.
In 2008, Lester participated in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. The following year, he finished third in the summer Daytona race. In 2011, Lester made history. He became the first Black driver to win in any Grand-Am division. Shortly thereafter, Lester retired from auto racing.
Now 57, Lester currently works for the National Motorsports Appeals Panel and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and sons. Like the Black drivers before him, Bill Lester paved a way for Black drivers who entered the world of auto racing after him.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer (Nikodemus Mwandishi). Thank you.**