While serving as project manager for Hewlett-Packard was a solid, well-paying job, Lester wanted racing to be his profession.
After going over the pros and cons with his wife, he decided to concentrate solely on motorsports.
In 1999, Lester got his first taste of NASCAR when he started 24th and finished 21st in a NASCAR Busch Series event at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
He made five starts in the truck series in 2001 and entered the series on a full-time basis a year later.
In 2004 Bill Davis Racing signed Lester to drive Toyota Tundras on the truck circuit, and that led to a foot in the door with Nextel Cup racing.
Lester says his goal in his first Cup race was to gain the respect of the 42 other men on the track.
“There were opportunities for me to take chances that I don’t think would have been worth it,” Lester says. “I got four tires and fuel and could have passed Mark Martin, but chose to stay out of the way. I didn’t want to cause an incident and make the other drivers fearful of racing with me. I want them to feel comfortable around me.
“Some of the most important things I learned out here were the driving characteristics and tactics from the drivers I competed against. That’s information I’m going to carry with me to future races.”
Lester battled handling problems most of the day on the slick surface.
“I had a couple minor scrapes with the wall, wearing off Goodyear on the side of the tires,” he says. “I learned a lot about the surface. It got slicker and slicker as more rubber was put down. The thing that was cool was racing with these guys and learning some tricks of the trade.”
Although a late bloomer, the advent of Toyota into Nextel Cup could open doors even wider for Lester. Although his Waste Management deal is with Dodge, he has a history with Toyota in the truck series.
“The fact of the matter is I want to gain experience in the Nextel Cup series so that I can be considered for a ride,” Lester says. “I’d like nothing more than to drive a Toyota car in Nextel Cup.”
If and when that day comes, Lester says he simply wants to be known as a driver – period.
“I represented myself,” he says. “I’m doing this for my family and myself. I’m glad that the minority community took an interest. However, I’m driving for myself. At the end of the day, if it wasn’t for me, I wouldn’t be here.”
TMC returns to racing
TMC Transportation, the largest privately-held open-freight transportation company in the United States, has returned to the racing world as the presenting sponsor with a motorsports driver development program called Rising Star.
Rising Star Driver Development offers a one-stop, comprehensive training and marketing resource for young, talented drivers.
Michael Annett, a Rising Star driver, will field the TMC black and gold No. 12 Ford Fusion in the 2006 ASA North season. Annett is one of three drivers in the Rising Star program for 2006. In 2007, one lucky driver will receive a full scholarship to enroll in the RSDD program, courtesy of TMC.