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Today in Black History, we will learn about Blacks in car racing.
We begin with Wendell Scott:
Wendell Scott Followed His Dream To Race
Written by Ray Everett
Wednesday, 03 December 2008 07:46
Like many of the early NASCAR drivers, Wendell Scott started out hauling moonshine in a souped up car he maintained himself. Scott was a clever entrepanuer, opening a taxi service in his native Danville, Virginia to shuttle the local residents around town by day, then using the cab under the cover of darkness to bring them the white lightning they were thirsty for.
With his popularity among the moonshiners growing as word of his driving ability spread through the mid Atlantic region, Scott began entering races at local dirt tracks thoroughout Virginia and North Carolina in 1952. He tasted success only one month into his driving career, winning his first race on the red clay half mile in Lynchburg, Virginia at the age of thirty.
Determined to move up in the sport of stock car racing, Wendell Scott traveled the south during segregation, showing up at NASCAR events with his number thirty four ready to race. He was turned away from many tracks, told by speedway personnel that he would not be able to compete due to the color of his skin. Encountering signs at restrooms, water fountains and restaurants that read “White Only” was a common occurence for Scott, who never seemed to let it bother him. “I expected all of that,” he said of his trials to become a NASCAR driver in segregated America.
Wendell Scott was issued a NASCAR license for the first time and allowed to compete at the old Richmond Speedway in Virginia, either in 1952 or 1953. NASCAR is not certain of the exact date but believes it to be 1953. Record books indicate that Scott went on to compete in four hundred ninty five Grand National and Winston Cup – known today as the Sprint Cup Series – events over thirteen seasons and collected $180,814 in purse winnings. He is credited with one NASCAR win, a controversial race held on December 1, 1963 in Jacksonville, Florida. Buck Baker was flagged the winner and celebrated in victory circle after Scott had passed Richard Petty, who was nursing a damaged car, for the lead with twenty five laps remaining. Scott was awarded the victory hours after the race was completed and left the track that day without the winners trophy. Many said NASCAR would not allow him to celebrate in victory lane because he would have had to kiss a white beauty queen.
“I was a black man. They wasn’t going to help a black man. That was all there was to it,” Scott once said in summing up the prejudice his career suffered.
A hard working and humble man, Scott struggled tremendously to raise seven children while running the family auto repair business and pursuing his racing dream. He was popular among NASCAR race fans, taking the time one sunny afternoon in 1973 at the North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, North Carolina to accomodate this writers request for an autograph and conversation of the days events.
Wendell Scott passed away on December 23, 1990 at the age of sixty nine.
A member of several state and regional halls of fame, Scott was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall Of Fame at Talledega in 1999 and the National Motorsports Press Association Hall Of Fame at Darlington in 2000.
A chronicle from the first successful black team in a sport as white-dominated as golf used to be. The author reveals his obstacles and bouts with racism in NASCAR.
The link is to a video of him doing a spot on C-Span2.
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