Bill Lester certainly took an uncommon path to NASCAR racing.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1984. After college, Lester went to work for the Hewlett-Packard Company as a project manager.

After spending several years racing on the weekends, he and wife Cheryl decided to go after his dream of becoming a professional race car driver.

Lester captured the SCCA Series Northern California Region Rookie of the Year title in 1985. A year later, he won the SCCA GT-3 Regional Road Racing Championship.

In 1989, Lester graduated to the International Motor Sports Association’s (IMSA) GTO Series and several other sports car series in the United States. During the late 1980s to the middle 1990s, he amassed four starts in the 24 Hours of Daytona and several starts in the SCCA Trans AM Series.

He got his first break in NASCAR in a Busch Series event at Watkins Glen, N.Y. in 1999. He finished 21st.

Then in 2000, Lester again got the call to drive in a NASCAR series on a road course; only this time, it was in the Craftsman Truck Series. He finished 24th.

He was hired to drive for Bobby Hamilton Racing in 2002 and stayed there through the end of the 2003 season. In 2003, Lester won his first career Bud Pole — at Lowe’s Motor Speedway — and scored his first career top-10 finish.

In early 2004, he was hired by Bill Davis Racing to run the full NCTS season.

You can call Lester a trailblazer, a pioneer, an instrument for change. You can call him a voice for minorities, a champion of what’s right. But what Lester most wants to be called is a race car driver — a winning race car driver.

“I don’t really have anything to fall back on as far as a record,” Lester said. “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.”