African-American NASCAR Driver: It Wasn't
April 18, 2008
sources that document the early history of stock
car racing list Wendell Scott as the first
African-American NASCAR driver, and
was a true racer - the first and only
African-American driver ever to win in the Grand
National/Winston Cup series.
victory came in 1963 at Speedway Park in
Jacksonville, Florida, in a race which also
featured Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett, David
Pearson, and other top NASCAR stars of the day.
the course of his 13-year career, Scott competed
in 495 Cup races from 1961 to 1973. He posted 20
top-5 and 147 top-10 finishes including his win,
and finished in the top 10 in points three times
- sixth in 1966, and ninth in both 1968 and
Scott was the first African-American NASCAR
driver to race at the Cup level on a long-term
basis, but historical sources which dig a little
deeper typically list Charlie Scott (no relation
to Wendell), as the first African-American
driver ever to compete in a Cup race.
article on NASCAR.com states, "Charlie Scott
will go down in history as the first
African-American driver to make a NASCAR race.
He competed on the Daytona Beach road course in
1956 in a Kiekhaefer Chrysler. When the
checkered waved, Scott found himself in 19th
place, earning $75 dollars for his efforts."
was Charlie Scott's only race, and it occurred
on February 26, 1956.
recently came across an interesting bit of
information that may change NASCAR history: A
page from the August 1, 1955, edition of the San
Mateo (CA) Times newspaper, with an article
about that weekend's NASCAR race at Bay Meadows
250-lap Grand National Series race was held on
July 31, 1955, on the one-mile San Mateo dirt
track. It featured several NASCAR stars of the
time, including Lee Petty, Marvin Panch, Buck
Baker, Ed Negre (making his Cup series debut),
and Tim Flock -- the race winner, who also won
the Grand National title that year.
Finishing 28th that day in a field of 34 cars,
in front of 15,000 fans, was
Elias Bowie, making
his first and only NASCAR Cup appearance.
Bowie was African-American.
According to relatives, Mr. Bowie was something
of a pioneer in areas besides racing. He owned
several transportation companies in Oakland, San
Francisco, and San Jose, CA, primarily jitney
buses and taxi cabs, at a time when it was still
rare for African-Americans to own businesses.
race in which Bowie competed was marred by
several accidents, though no serious injuries
resulted. "(The) most spectacular crash came
when a tire hurtled from the car of Carl Hammill
of Sacramento as it went into the south turn,"
reads the article. "The car flipped over and
spun helplessly like a turtle on its back.
Hammill crawled out unhurt." Additionally, "Bill
Amick of Portland, Ore. and Allen Adkins of
Fresno both went through the fence early, but
Bowie, by all accounts a colorful character who
loved Cadillacs and always wore his fedora when
he drove, proved to be just as entertaining in
the NASCAR race according to the newspaper
account. "He had the largest pit crew, topped by
a lanky double-jointed chap in green fatigue
uniform. He also had provided a full tank car of
Mobil Oil gas. In spite of (or because of) these
precautions, Bowie completed the race."
name, credited as Eliso Bowie, and race
participation is listed on the authoritative
racing statistics website, Racing-Reference.info, which contains the
results from every Strictly Stock, Grand
National, Winston Cup, Nextel Cup, Sprint Cup,
Busch Series, Nationwide Series and Craftsman
Truck Series race ever run.
Interestingly, Bowie was a descendent of James
Bowie, free man of color (1795-1832), whose
story can be found here:
neither Charlie Scott nor Elias Bowie achieved
the success or longevity of Wendell Scott in
NASCAR racing, the 1955 San Mateo Times
newspaper article seems to indicate that it is,
in fact, Elias Bowie who deserves at least a
mention as the first-ever African-American