In 2015, the NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted its first African-Amercian driver. That driver is Wendell Scott, the first Black driver to compete full time in the premiere division, and the first to win at NASCAR’s highest level.
A native of Danville, Virginia, Wendell Scott began racing in 1947 at local area tracks. From 1961-1973, he competed in NASCAR’s premiere series, becoming the first Black person to win a NASCAR premiere series event on Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. In his 13 year career, Wendell Scott made 495 starts, ranking 37th on the all-time list.
While NASCAR credits him with winning one premiere series event, Wendell Scott’s son, Frank Scott, shared the impact of racism on his father’s winning record. “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.” Wendall Scott was also banned from racing at certain speedways, and even received death threats when he planned to race in Atlanta, GA.
Frank Scott shared, “Daddy said, ‘Look, if I leave in a pine box, that’s what I gotta do. But I’m gonna race.'”
Wendell Scott’s career ended when he could no longer afford to race and no one would support him financially. Frank Scott explained, “Where other drivers that we were competing against had major sponsorships, providing them engineers, as many cars as they needed, he did everything that he did out of his own pocket.”
Today, we remember Wendell Scott for bravely pioneering in NASCAR racing, and being excellent, despite the discrimination and racism that tried to keep him from succeeding. We celebrate his achievements and are thankful that his legacy is now (finally) recognized in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.