NASCAR veteran Bill Lester returns to the sports cars ranks this season while campaigning the Rolex Sports Car Series in the ...
NASCAR veteran Bill Lester returns to the sports cars ranks this season while campaigning the Rolex Sports Car Series in the #3 Lexus/Riley for Southard Motorsports. He'll co-drive with Shane Lewis for the entire 2008 season, with Alex Barron and Ted Christopher joining the team for the Rolex 24. He recently sat down with us to discuss this year's Rolex 24, as well as the upcoming season.
Moderator: Bill, tell us about your move from stock cars to sports cars.
Bill Lester: It's really a return to what I started out doing in racing. I began in sports cars in northern California. The reason I went stock car racing was that I had a great opportunity to test an ARCA car. I found that to be interesting and it seemed like most of the growth in the sport at that time seemed to be going toward stock cars. Then I had a great six-year run in the Craftsman Truck Series. I had a chance to run some Nextel Cup, which was pretty cool. But I just didn't get the right opportunity to continue over there. So I'm happy to be back in sports cars. It's what I find to be among the most rewarding forms of motorsports. These cars are light and nimble and reward the driver and they're responsive. While stock cars are the form of motorsports that most people choose to watch, from a driver's perspective, just turning it left and putting it into high gear isn't all that much fun.
Moderator: How did you come to join Southard Motorsports?
Bill Lester: I was very fortunate to have what I consider three very strong offers to come over to the Rolex Series. I just looked at the opportunities and there were a number of things that were very appealing about the Southard Motorsports team. Obviously, I have a relationship with Toyota, and subsequently, Lexus. I also have very high regard for Shane Lewis and I saw what the Southard team can do at the end of last season. I'm hoping that I can be one of the missing ingredients that can put the team into Victory Circle. I think it's going to be the right fit for me.
Moderator: Bill, I know you have Electrical engineering and Computer Science degrees from Cal, do you like the technical side of sports cars?
Bill Lester: Absolutely. Getting to work with all of the engineers over here is really nice. When you're over on the stock car side of things, you can only test with telemetry and computers. Over here, you can use them real time. That's a lot of fun for me, because it gives you immediate feedback and allows you to plot a direction to best improve and maximize your performance. Obviously, I'm not intimidated by computers, so I feel right at home.
Moderator: What's your approach to the Rolex 24?
Bill Lester: Obviously, the most important thing is just to finish the race. When I was here last year, we broke late night/early morning, and that was pretty disappointing not to see the checkered flag. First and foremost, I think we have a team that will provide the preparation to go all 24 hours. Then, you have to be lucky as well as good. There are a lot of cars out there and you can't control what they're doing. So you just have to hope you don't put a wheel wrong, then you hope that somebody else doesn't put a wheel wrong and take you out. Our first goal is just to finish....after that it would be to finish on the podium and then you just hope to finish first with a Rolex watch. When I came here in 2001, we won the pole and were leading our class, but had some problems. That watch can be really elusive.
Moderator: What are your thoughts on this year's field, some suggest
it's the most talented field in the world? Bill Lester: You'd be hard-pressed to argue that. You have guys from open wheel, you have guys from NASCAR, sports car veterans, up-and-comers. The teams that will be running upfront are the teams with veteran drivers, who are very experienced and can hold their own in just about any discipline they choose. For them to all come here, and for us to all compete against one another, it's just a thrill...a real treat for a driver.