Tuesday, July 22, 2003 DODGE THIS Teleconference Bill Lester Bill Lester (driver, No. 8 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Ram) ON CHEERIOS ANNOUNCEMENT "Last week we unveiled the new Cheerios box with myself on the cover. It was a tremendous event....
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
DODGE THIS Teleconference
Bill Lester (driver, No. 8 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Ram)
ON CHEERIOS ANNOUNCEMENT
"Last week we unveiled the new Cheerios box with myself on the cover. It was a tremendous event. We had a 150-piece marching band out there and 200 students at a YMCA youth center. The COO of Atlanta came out there. The mayor couldn't make it, but I did get a proclamation from the city. It pretty much exceeded my wildest dreams with being on the cover of a cereal box. That was something that I never really aspired to do, but it was the result of nurturing a relationship for about three years with a guy at General Mills in 2000 at Daytona when I was talking with some at-risk students. He stuck a business card in my hand after I talked with them about the importance of staying in school and pursuing your dreams. He told me he couldn't promise anything but told me to stay in touch. We stayed in contact over the years and finally this year he said 'I think the Honey Nut Cheerios brand is interested in you and I think I may be able to sell you to them. We want you to be a spokesperson and we want to introduce a cereal box with you on it.' We were able to do that last week and it has been a very exciting thing. The exposure has been overwhelming and more than I ever expected it to be. I am just happy that we have a partnership with General Mills."
ON DRIVING AND WORKING WITH BOBBY HAMILTON
"That is one of the most asked questions of me that I can think of. Everybody is wondering what it's like to work with Bobby and all I can say is that it's a pleasure and an honor. He is one of the most upfront and honest people I have ever worked with. In this business that is a blessing because you hear so many different things that you don't know what to believe, but if Bobby tells you it's the case then you pretty much take it to the bank. My learning curve has grown exponentially from just being in his presence. If I ever get off track, he knows exactly what these trucks need and the feel they should have. It's been the case once or twice that he has actually jumped behind the wheel of my truck just to get a feeling for whether or not what I think is right is right, and it has worked out really well. Chad and I benefit from his input. We all help each other out here. It is pretty much a team effort. It's a very comfortable situation. With Bobby, he is a man of very few words and doesn't like to talk a whole lot, but every time he opens his mouth I am right there paying attention to anything he has to say. Anything I can pick up is going to be an asset to my career and to my future."
ON HIS OFF-TRACK RELATIONSHIP WITH BOBBY HAMILTON
"It's been great. There have been a lot of times I have went and sought his advice and he has given me direction. He has been through the game and he knows how it is played. He has been able to keep me away from some pit-falls and from things that may not be in my best interest. It's great. He is more than just a team owner or a teammate. He is a friend, and the relationship that we have is very important to me."
ON THE DIFFICULTY OF BEING A ROLE MODEL
"I don't really think it is difficult. I am not trying to be anybody that I am not. I am just trying to be myself and share some of the experiences I have had in my life. I know that ethnic youth are seeking positive role models and fortunately I am in a position where I guess I am one. People ask me how it feels to be a role model or a trailblazer or a pioneer. I am just a racecar driver. Fortunately I am the kind of guy to never take no for an answer. There are a lot of sports stars who squander away the qualities that make them a role model. I am very aware of the things that are out there that can trip you up. I don't want to be beyond reproach but I want to be the best person that I can be. My parents have really instilled right and wrong in me and to know what to do and how to conduct myself. I think the relationship that I have with General Mills and Honey Nut Cheerios is more of a situation of, 'This is a guy who lives right and lives well and values education,' more so than my record on the track because I don't really have anything to fall back on as far as a record. I have done some things, but I haven't done all that I wanted to do yet. Until I do that, I think what everyone is really impressed with is what I have done to get to where I am today. Anything could have distracted me and thrown me off base, but I didn't let those things deter me. I knew what I wanted to do with my life and I stuck to it."
ON DAMAGE THAT A 'KOBE BRYANT' SITUATION CAN DO TO YOUNG PEOPLE
"It can definitely burst a bubble. A lot of people look at Kobe Bryant as a guy who has worked hard and lived right and made good decisions. All it took was for one misstep and things are starting to cave-in around him. It's a really unfortunate situation because I know there are a lot of youth out there who view Kobe Bryant as one of the guys who is out there doing things the right way and even he got caught up in it. I think it is a real tragedy and unfortunate. I know there is nobody who is more distraught in it than Kobe himself, but by the same token it lets kids know that everyone is human. Everybody makes mistakes and it is up to you to know the difference between right and wrong and to do the right thing."
ON GOALS OF A GOOD DRIVER
"We definitely set goals out at the beginning of the year to try to aspire to and to try to attain. Sometimes you fall a bit short but I think that you have to put a stake in the ground so that you have something to shoot for. Otherwise you just follow a meandering path. We definitely set some goals out at the beginning of this year. One was to win a race or two and the second was to finish in the top-10 in the points championship and the third was to get a pole. We got a pole this year, we are outside the top-10 in the points championship, and unfortunately we haven't won a race yet this year. So I guess one out of three isn't bad, but the season is only half over and I hope that we can attain those other two goals."
ON LESTER'S ROLE MODELS GROWING UP
"I can definitely lay credit to my role model being my father. He's a very strong man, a very strong African American, and a very accomplished man at the same time. He went through college, got his PhD in theoretical chemistry from Catholic University and he was someone who I thought was a trailblazer and a role model to me because this was a man who could have played in the NBA, but his passion was chemistry. Despite the desire to play basketball, he knew his heart was into being a chemist. He was the one who gave me my first exposure into high-technology and computers and that's why I went into electrical engineering and computer science, because I knew that getting into that area at the time could give me a very strong financial income so that I could go out there and try to race and meet my passion which was racing. Although my father had a good occupation, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I didn't grow up racing go-karts as a second or third-generation driver. My father also introduced me to racing when I was eight years old. If it weren't for my father taking me to the track, I would never have considered motorsports or auto racing. He is essentially my role model for all of the things he has instilled in me."
ON THE TRUCK SERIES BEING A DIVERSE FIELD
"I think that's what makes it exciting. The only real consistent female driver, Tina Gordon, is there and I am there. When I look into the stands I see some real diversity. I think that is a good thing. I am fortunate in that I am somewhat of a catalyst for change but that's not my first priority. My first priority is to go out there and be a racecar driver and to win but at the same time, if people gravitate to what it is that I am doing and realize that if I can do it they can do it, then that is a tremendous feather in my cap and I am happy to be in the position that I am in."
ON THE TRUCK SERIES BEING A CAREER SERIES
"There is no question about that. When you see there are only 25 races instead of 36, not everybody wants to be away from their families every weekend. The competition is fierce. I hear it from a lot of people, including the Winston Cup fans that the best competition is in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. I am happy competing here. I am hoping it might be a stepping-stone to Winston Cup racing but if I never got to Winston Cup, I would be very content staying here in the Craftsman Truck Series. I am honing my skills and getting more experience. This past weekend I talked to Mike Skinner and he told me he is having more fun racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series than he did in Winston Cup. The odds of winning in Winston Cup are longer because you have 30 or so cars that have a shot at winning, whereas only about 15 trucks have a legitimate chance of winning in the Truck Series. If it becomes that I don't have the right opportunity in front of me when I try to move to Winston Cup, then I wont do it. But I am not going to go there just to try to make money and be miserable. My objective is to win."
ON TOYOTA JOINING THE TUCK SERIES NEXT YEAR
"Not too many people know what's going on there. But I think what that is going to do is raise the level of competition and put everyone else on the top of their game. I think it is a positive thing because it is going to introduce a whole new region of fans. Lots of people talk about how truck racing is only about the big three. But the Toyotas are made here in the states and there is no reason why they shouldn't be able to compete."
ON HIS APPROACH TO DRIVING THIS YEAR
"Well last year was totally brand new to me. I come from a sport scar road racing background and I didn't know the tracks and I didn't really know what I should feel in a stockcar. Every race was a new experience to me and I was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and now I know the drivers I am racing against. It is just a whole new level confidence that I come into every race with. Whereas before it was just not knowing. Now I pretty much know what to expect. I know what it is that I am up against and I feel like the team I am with here at Bobby Hamilton Racing is a lot stronger. I'm optimistic about the second half of the season. I feel we would be in the top-10 if it weren't for a couple bad breaks we have had. The only reason I have had finishes outside of the top-20 is because of mechanical failure and because someone with less experience ended up taking out a lead-lap truck. I still feel like the goals I set forth at the beginning of the year are still attainable."
OUTLOOK FOR MICHIGAN NEXT WEEK
"I am very optimistic about Michigan. I said it before and I will say it again. The faster the better. Michigan is one of those really fast tracks. We are going to take Trix back, the truck that does really well for us on the fast tracks and I think the guys are going to give me a package that is conducive to my driving style and we are going to go there and kick butt and take names. We have a sponsorship announcement to unveil this Friday and I sure would like to put on a great show for the new sponsors who are coming on board. I am nothing but optimistic about what we are going to do in Michigan."