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Wendell Scott

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing

Wendell Scott
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Wikipedia: Wendell Scott

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Born:  August 29, 1921
Died:  December 23, 1990
Hometown: Danville, Virginia, USA

Former NASCAR Grand National driver, and first African-American to win in NASCAR's top series.

His only Grand National win came at Jacksonville Speedway Park in December of 1963.  He was scored third, behind Buck Baker and Jack Smith.  However, Wendell Scott clearly passed both drivers multiple times.  After arguing his case, officials reviewed the scoring.  Four hours after the race, Wendell Scott was declared the winner, having actually raced two more laps than necessary.

His career ended after he sustained injuries in a crash at Talladega in 1973.

The Richard Pryor movie Greased Lightning was based on his life.

Wendell Scott made his first career NASCAR start on 4 March 1961.  On 6 March 2010 the Camping World Truck Series E-Z-GO 200 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and on March 7, 2010 for the Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 500 race, there were stickers on the trucks and cars commemorating Scott's first race in what was then NASCAR's Grand National series.

His accomplishments include:
NASCAR Hall of Fame, 2015 Inductee

Biography

The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Wendell Scott page on 20 February 2018, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wendell Oliver Scott was an American stock car racing driver. He was one of the first African-American drivers in NASCAR, and the first African-American to win a race in the Grand National Series, NASCAR's highest level.

Scott began his racing career in local circuits and attained his NASCAR license in around 1953, making him the first African-American ever to compete in NASCAR. He debuted in the Grand National Series on March 4, 1961, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. On December 1, 1963, he won a Grand National Series race at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida, becoming the first black driver to win a race at NASCAR's premier level. Scott's career was repeatedly affected by racial prejudice and problems with top-level NASCAR officials. However, his determined struggle as an underdog won him thousands of white fans and many friends and admirers among his fellow racers. He was posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015.

Scott was born in Danville, Virginia. From boyhood, he wanted to be his own boss. In Danville, two industries dominated the local economy: cotton mills and tobacco-processing plants. Scott vowed to avoid that sort of boss-dominated life. "That mill's too much like a prison," he told a friend. "You go in and they lock a gate behind you and you can't get out until you've done your time." (This quotation and those that follow are from "Hard Driving" and are posted here by the book's author.) He began learning auto mechanics from his father, who worked as a driver and mechanic for two well-to-do white families. Scott and his sister Guelda were awed by their father's daring behind the wheel. "He frightened people to death," Guelda said. "They say he'd come through town just about touching the ground. After Scott started racing, all the old people would say the same thing: 'He's just like his daddy.'" Scott raced bicycles against white boys. In his neighborhood, he said, "I was the only black boy that had a bicycle." He became a daredevil on roller skates, speeding down Danville's steep hills on one skate. He dropped out of high school, became a taxi driver, married Mary Coles and served in the segregated Army in Europe during World War II.

After the war, he ran an auto-repair shop. As a sideline, he took up the dangerous, illegal pursuit of running moonshine whiskey. This trade gave quite a few early stock car racers such as Junior Johnson and Big Bill France their education in building fast cars and outrunning the police. The police caught Scott only once, in 1949. Sentenced to three years probation, he continued making his late-night whiskey runs. On weekends, he would go to the stock car races in Danville.


Multimedia

20 February 2018 (10:51AM)
Storycorps: African-American NASCAR Driver Was Driven to Compete
Storycorps, VOA News

Racecar driver Wendell Scott began his career in the Southern U.S. during an era of discrimination against African-Americans. His son Frank and grandson Warrick talked to Storycorps about Wendell’s racing days.

Download Storycorps: African-American NASCAR Driver Was Driven to Compete - 56.3MB - 2:31


Article Index

DateArticleAuthor/Source
17 June 2006Forgotten NASCAR Greats:  1960's:  Wendell ScottBill Crittenden


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