Bill Lester, one of the few Black drivers to ever race in NASCAR, is making his comeback to the sport.
According to Fox News, Lester will be behind the wheel for the first time in 14 years during Saturday’s Truck Series race. He’ll be driving for David Gilliland Racing. Lester’s return also coincides with the upcoming release of his memoir, Winning in Reverse: Defying the Odds and Achieving Dreams — The Bill Lester Story.
“I had not been looking to get back involved in the sport. I’ve been very content just watching,” Lester said. “But I wrote this motivational memoir — it is not an autobiography. I want to make that very clear, it is a motivational story with a motorsports backdrop and my story of how I was able to live my dream.
Lester was a 40-year-old engineer at Hewlett-Packard when he quit his job to become a driver. “I talk about getting out of your comfort zone and this will truly be an example of me getting out of my comfort zone. I could very easily continue to sit on the couch and watch, but here I am going to jump back in the deep end at one of the fastest tracks on the circuit.”
He was also the first Black driver to compete in an Xfinity Series race in 1999. From 2002 to 2007, Lester made 145 career NASCAR starts, mainly in the third-tier Truck Series. Now, Lester is expected to be welcomed back with open arms. The sport has recently upped its accountability and has taken proper measures to uphold tolerance and denounce discrimination.
Bill Lester Anticipates More Progressive Climate for NASCAR Return
Like Lester, Bubba Wallace is one of the few Black drivers in history to compete at such a high level. Last year, he encouraged NASCAR to ban the use of the confederate flag at tracks. After NASCAR banned the flag, Lester wrote a personal thank-you letter to NASCAR President Steve Phelps.
“When I was racing in the mid-2000s, ears were not ready to hear it. There was no platform that I had to say the things that Bubba did and gain traction. It sunk in this time,” Lester said. “When the media asked me about my thoughts on the Confederate Flag, I was very transparent that I didn’t like it. It made me uncomfortable.
“But I ignored it. I treated it as Southern culture. I just had to respect Southerners for their culture even though I didn’t believe that that was something we should all be rallying behind. But far be it for me to make any change. It just wasn’t the right time.”