If you're not familiar with NASCAR, or even racing, chances are you're not acquainted with driving legend Wendell Scott. Not only is he considered one of the first Black NASCAR racers, but he was also the only one to win a premier series event.
Born in 1921, Scott was originally from Danville, Virginia. After serving in World War II, he set his sights on becoming a professional race car driver. He opened his own garage and was rearing to go, but he was denied entry into multiple races because he was Black.
His driving career didn't start until 1947 with the Dixie Circuit, a race series for Black drivers barred from NASCAR races. He won just 12 days after joining Dixie at a race in Lynchburg, Virginia. He managed to enter NASCAR's lower level circuits after convincing officials in 1953. Scott's first top tier race happened in March 1961, when he competed in the Spartanburg 200 in South Carolina. It wasn't uncommon for Scott to overhear racial slurs from competitors or jeers from spectators during that time, as well.
Then came December 1, 1963 -- the day Scott became the first Black racer to compete in a top-tier NASCAR event. And the Black racer to win.The race was then called Grand National and took place in Jacksonville, Florida. His win wasn't without controversy, however. Race officials originally declared Buck Baker the winner despite him finishing the race two laps down.
"Scott wasn’t awarded the win until two years later. His family received the winning trophy in 2010, 20 years after his death," WKMG learned. "The win would be the first and to this day, only for a black driver in NASCAR’s top-tier.
The pioneer continued competing in NASCAR races and generated local fanbases. He essentially retired following a serious 1973 wreck in Talladega, then known as the International Speedway. Scott reportedly suffered multiple injuries to his pelvis, knees, legs and ribs in the crash. Much of Scott's achievements weren't recognized until after his death on December 23, 1990.
Scott's hometown of Danville also recognized him with a historical marker near his former shop, according to USA Today. Officials also renamed the street where his house and shop was located to Wendell Scott Drive in 1997. Most notably, he became the first Black racer to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015.
“He has gotten a lot of recognition since he passed, and it’s a shame it took so long,” Danville resident David Oakes told USA Today. He was an owner of an auto parts shop and a longtime friend of Scott’s. “He didn’t live to see it. He kept at it all the time. He was determined. Racing was his passion, what he wanted to do in life.”
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