Tag: African-American race car drivers

African-American Racer Wendell Scott Officially Inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame Tonight

Wendell Scott
NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott

Announced last May, the news finally became official: as of tonight, African-American race car driver Wendell Scott is the first black man inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Scott drove during the Jim Crow era, and he was the first African-American to win a race at NASCAR’s elite major league level. He died in 1990.  His career began in 1952, and his racing team was his family. They would travel to races together from their home in Virginia, and his sons served as his pit crew.

Wendell Scott's son Frank Scott (left) and grandson Warrick Scott at StoryCorps in Danville, Va. Wendell Scott, who died in 1990, was one of the first African-American NASCAR drivers to win a race at the elite level.
Wendell Scott’s son Frank Scott (left) and grandson Warrick Scott at StoryCorps in Danville, Va. Wendell Scott, who died in 1990, was one of the first African-American NASCAR drivers to win a race at the elite level.

“It was like Picasso, like a great artist doing his work,” says Scott’s son, Frank, 67, at StoryCorps. “And he was in that car, he was doing his work. And as children we didn’t have that leisure time, you know, we couldn’t go to the playground. He said to us, ‘I need you at the garage.’ I can remember him getting injured, and he’d just take axle grease and put it in the cut and keep working.”

But Scott wasn’t allowed to race at certain speedways. When he planned to go to Atlanta, he even received death threats.

“Daddy said, ‘Look, if I leave in a pine box, that’s what I gotta do. But I’m gonna race,’ ” Frank says. “I can remember him racing in Jacksonville, and he beat them all, but they wouldn’t drop the checkered flag. And then when they did, they had my father in third place. One of the main reasons that they gave was there was a white beauty queen, and they always kissed the driver.”

“Did he ever consider not racing anymore?” asks Scott’s grandson, Warrick, 37.

“Never,” Frank says. “That was one of my daddy’s sayings: ‘When it’s too tough for everybody else, it’s just right for me.’ ”

Before the Atlanta 500 in 1964, Scott was sick and needed an operation, but he refused not to race.

“And so, I said, ‘Daddy, we don’t have to race,’ ” Frank says. “He whispered to me and said, ‘Lift my legs up and put me in the car.’ So, I took my arms and put them behind his legs and kind of acted like I was hugging him and helped him into the car. He drove 500 miles that day.”

Wendell Scott (right) and his son Frank in Darlington, S.C., in 1970. Wendell Scott becomes the first African-American driver inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday.
Wendell Scott (right) and his son Frank in Darlington, S.C., in 1970. Wendell Scott becomes the first African-American driver inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday. (Courtesy of the Scott family)

“How did his racing career officially end?” Warrick asks.

Scott’s career ended only because he couldn’t afford to race anymore. No one would financially support his career.

“Where other drivers that we were competing against had major sponsorships, providing them engineers, as many cars as they needed,” Frank says, “he did everything that he did out of his own pocket.

“He always felt like someday he’s going to get his big break,” Frank adds. “But for 20 years nobody mentioned Wendell Scott. At one point it was like he never existed. But he didn’t let it drive him crazy. I think that’s what made him so great. He chose to be a race car driver, and he was going to race until he couldn’t race no more.”

Produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall and John White.  To hear audio of this story, click through to npr.org.

Wendell Scott Becomes 1st Black Man Inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame

Wendell Scott

Nearly 25 years after his passing, Wendell Scott, the first African-American driver to secure a victory at NASCAR’s top level, continues to make history.  His legendary career includes a historic premier series victory, championships, and more than 100 wins in NASCAR’s regional level divisions. This week, he reached the sport’s pinnacle and became a NASCAR Hall of Famer.

Scott, one of NASCAR’s true trailblazers, became the first African American elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Wednesday when the 2015 class was announced in a special unveiling at the hall in Charlotte, North Carolina. Accompanying Scott in NASCAR’s sixth class are Bill Elliott, Fred Lorenzen, Joe Weatherly and Rex White all of whom will be officially enshrined on January 30, 2015 at the Charlotte Convention Center.

“This is a proud day for NASCAR and one of the most significant days in the history of our sport,” said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. “We are honored to announce Wendell Scott is a member of our 2015 class of NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees. “Wendell had plenty of success in our premier series but his contributions, of course, transcended any results on the race track.”

“His importance to our sport grows daily. At NASCAR, we are reminded of that importance with every advancement we make when it comes to diversity and inclusion. All of that can be linked to Wendell Scott. Congratulations go out to the entire Scott family, especially his wife Mary and his children. Wendell is where he belongs, where he has always belonged – in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”

Scott, a skilled mechanic and self-sufficient driver on the race track, looked past the racial prejudice that was widespread during the 1950s and 1960s to pursue his love for racing. Continue reading “Wendell Scott Becomes 1st Black Man Inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame”