Bill Lester Impressive in Firebird Raceway Test

PHOENIX, Ariz. (December 2, 1999) - Bill Lester saw only one problem in Wednesday's Indy Lights test session with Team KOOL Green - he didn't want it to end. As the sun began to set in the Arizona sky, Lester, who had spent the ...

PHOENIX, Ariz. (December 2, 1999) - Bill Lester saw only one problem in Wednesday's Indy Lights test session with Team KOOL Green - he didn't want it to end. As the sun began to set in the Arizona sky, Lester, who had spent the entire day pushing himself and the 425-horsepower car to the limit, asked Team KOOL Green engineers for one small favor. "Can I have just one more lap?" questioned the excited Californian. In a test that was scheduled for 90 laps, Lester wound up taking 148 trips around 1.25-mile road course at Firebird International Raceway. The Oakland native certainly made the most of his opportunity to test an Indy Lights car in the culminating stage of CART's African-American Driver Development Program. Lester's Indy Lights drive brought to a close the inaugural year of CART's program designed to assist aspiring African-American drivers in their quest to become open-wheel racers. The program was announced by CART Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Craig in Washington, D.C. in July. Lester, along with David Francis Jr. of Los Angeles and Andrew Kelley of Columbus, Ohio, earned the opportunity to test a Toyota Atlantic car prepared by the Toyota Atlantic series champion Precision Preparation Industries (PPI) team in late October at California's Buttonwillow Raceway. Following that test, Lester was selected to move to the next level in the Driver Development Program - an Indy Lights test. Wednesday, he made a lasting impression on the Team KOOL Green crew with his performance on the track. "What Bill has shown is that he could very easily compete at this level of racing given an opportunity and the proper amount of testing," said Lou Schollum, Indy Lights Team Manager for Team KOOL Green. "When he started in the morning, the only open-wheel experience he had was a half-day of testing in a Toyota-Atlantic car. He met the challenge of driving an Indy Lights car and ran very well. He continued to run faster all day and made very few mistakes." Lester, who began racing professionally in 1989 and has competed in NASCAR Busch Grand National, SCCA Trans-Am and IMSA races, has taken a leave of absence from his job as a project manager for Hewlett-Packard to pursue his dream of racing. "I'm pretty happy with my performance," said Lester shortly after the test. "Once I started getting in a rhythm, I just wanted to keep going. I think I got adjusted to the car very quickly and then I just tried to work on a couple of key areas of improvement." "We went a little bit over our estimation of laps, but Bill's superb fitness allowed us to go that far," said Schollum. "We always tell drivers to drive hard to the checkered flag. Well, Bill did that and then some." Lester, who will receive a comprehensive evaluation from Team KOOL Green within the next week, hopes that his strong performance will eventually lead to earning a full-time ride in either the Toyota Atlantic or Indy Lights series. "I hope this will help open the door for more opportunities," said Lester. "It's been a very long and trying road to get to this point in my career, but with what's been happening in the last six months with CART's Driver Development Program, I'm very encouraged. I just hope it continues."

-CART-

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Series INDYLIGHTS