Archive for Saturday, November 24, 2001

Dodge Diversity Program selects Lester

Record 23 drivers have earned berths in next February’s Budweiser Shootout

November 24, 2001

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Bill Lester will drive next season for Bobby Hamilton Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series, taking the wheel of the No. 8 Dodge Dealers Ram 1500.

The automaker is the team's primary sponsor as part of its Dodge Diversity Program for minority drivers and technicians.

"This is simply a dream come true," said Lester, who is black. "I've wanted to be a full-time professional driver for a long time and I've worked hard for a lot of years for just this kind of opportunity.

The 40-year-old Californian made five starts this year in Hamilton's No. 4 Dodge, finishing a season-best 18th last month at Phoenix International Raceway.

Big Shootout: A record 23 drivers earned spots in the 23rd annual Budweiser Shootout, the exhibition race Feb. 10 at Daytona International Speedway.

The 70-lap event features 2001 pole winners and past Budweiser Shootout champions. Eighteen drivers competed last year, the most starters in the event's history.

Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon tops the field along with pole winners Bill Elliott, Dale Jarrett, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bobby Labonte, Ricky Rudd, Sterling Marlin, Todd Bodine, Jimmy Spencer, Ricky Craven, Kenny Wallace, Jeff Green, Stacy Compton, Casey Atwood, Jason Leffler, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman.

"It's wonderful to go to Florida a week earlier and for us to be invited there on a Bud Pole," Busch said.

Defending race champion Tony Stewart also joins past champions Rusty Wallace, Geoffrey Bodine, Ken Schrader and Terry Labonte.

Boat Team: IRL driver Billy Boat has teamed with recording industry mogul Mike Curb and motorsports businessman Cary Agajanian to form a Phoenix-based team.

Boat, the 1998 Indianapolis 500 pole winner, finished a career-best fourth in the 2001 standings.

"Phoenix is a great sports town, and I wanted to bring an Indy team back into the mix with the other sports teams in town," he said.

The team will use a Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone technical package, and has hired Darrell Soppe as manager and engineer.

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