New Video at Page Bottom!
Scott, the only black driver in NASCAR for
virtually all of his career, probably earned more respect than he did
money. His career was a constant struggle with low budgets.
The Danville, VA native started racing in 1947.
In his first race, he finished third in a borrowed car, won $50 and was
hooked. In the next few years he won 128 hobby, amateur and modified
races, on the old Dixie Circuit and outlaw tracks. In 1959, Scott
enjoyed his best season ever. He won 22 races and captured the Richmond
track championship as well as the Virginia State Sportsman title.
Low budget operations such as Scott's often
need a helping hand, and both Earl Brooks and Ned Jarrett have been
credited by Scott as being a big help to him during his career. He and
Brooks often traveled together. On the family side, Scott often used his
sons as members of his pit crew.
Scott bought a year-old Chevrolet from Buck
Baker in 1961 and moved up to NASCAR's Grand National (now Winston Cup)
division. In 1963, driving a car he bought from Ned Jarrett, Scott
finished 15 in the points.
NASCAR ran a split season then, and the third
race of the 1964 season was on December 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in
Jacksonville, a one-mile dirt track. Scott beat Buck Baker to become the
first black to win on NASCAR's highest level, a distinction he still
In May of 1964, Scott was down on his luck and
almost out of racing when Ned Jarrett set up a deal for Scott. He was
able to obtain a Holman-Moody Ford that had been raced the year before
in USAC for a dollar. Driving that car, Scott finished 12 in points
despite missing several races. Over the next five years, Scott
consistently finished in the Top Ten in the point standings.
He moved up to 11th in 1965, was a career-high
6th in 1966, 10th in 1967, and finished 9th in both 1968 and '69. His
top year in winnings was 1969 when he won $47,451.
Wendell Scott, 1999
Wendell Scott Followed His Dream To
Race Written by Ray
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 throughout 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.
Scott retired from
NASCAR racing in 1973 and returned to driving the short
tracks of Virginia and the Carolina's for a few more years,
entering select events when circumstances would allow. Later
in life he would become dissatisfied with his racing career,
firmly believing he hadn't the opportunity to showcase his
talent in competitive equipment. Scott worked diligently
throughout his career, without success, to obtain factory
support and major sponsorship for his racing efforts. Ned
Jarrett and Richard Petty were among his strongest
"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
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 accommodate this writers request for an autograph and
conversation of the days events.
Greased Lightning, a
movie detailing the history of Scott's career, was produced
in 1977 and starred Richard Pryor as Wendell Scott. Scott
worked with the producers and was promised royalties, but
never received any.
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.
It is no doubt
Wendell Scott was a genuine racer who accomplished great
things in the face of adversity. He was a man ahead of his
time, possessing a burning desire to succeed in the sport he
dearly loved. Let his path and message serve as an example
to us all.
Racing Pioneer Wendell Scott
by Tony McClean
Today we take a look at one of the first
African-Americans to thrive and win on the NASCAR circuit. You may
already have heard of the name of Wendell Scott if you're a fan
of comedian-actor Richard Pryor. Back in 1977, Pryor starred in "Greased
Lightning", a movie depicting the life of Mr. Scott.
who endured severe discrimination during his days as a driver, raced
throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. He finished sixth in the Winston
Cup standings in 1966 with 21,702 points. Only 1,250 points separated Scott and third-place finisher Richard Petty, who is arguably the
greatest driver ever.
Born Aug. 28, 1921, Scott was from
Danville, Virginia's "Crooktown" section. His first driving job was as a
taxi driver. Later he hauled illegal whiskey, an occupation that called
for skills as both a high-performance mechanic and a fearless driver.
Early on, blacks were barred from many major races. In the 1920s black
drivers tried to arrange racing circuits. But the prize money was meager
at best. Nevertheless, Scott set his sights on breaking into
organized racing. "There were just a few Blacks attending races then,"
Scott was quoted as saying.
"Most of the time me and a friend
were the only two Blacks in the stands. He'd often ask me if I'd have
the nerve to get out there and run. I'd tell him, 'shucks, yes,' I could
do it." Scott started racing at the Danville Fairgrounds Speedway.
February 10, 1952, Joie Ray started 25th in the Daytona 500 course in
his Henry J. Ray went on to finish 51st that day and is recognized as
being the first African-American driver to start a NASCAR sanctioned
Scott would go on to win
120 races in lower divisions and in 1959 won state championships in his
classes. In 1961 he was able to pull together enough money to field a
car on NASCAR's top-level Grand National circuit, later renamed the
Winston Cup series.
Enduring persistent, sometimes brutal
discrimination, Scott raced in nearly 500 races in NASCAR's top
division from 1961 through the early 1970s. Racing on a shoestring, he
finished in the top ten 147 times.
On December 1, 1963, he won
his only major race, a 100-mile event on a half-mile track in
Jacksonville, Florida, but Scott was denied the opportunity to celebrate
in Victory Circle.
officials said a scoring error was responsible for allowing another
driver to accept the winner's trophy. Scott doubted that
explanation. "Everybody in the place knew I had won the race," he said
years later, "but the promoters and NASCAR officials didn't want me out
there kissing any beauty queens or accepting any awards."
In 1973, he suffered severe
injuries in a race at Talladega, Alabama. He raced only a few times
afterward. Wendell Scott passed away in 1990. But the legacy of
Scott hasn't been forgotten.
Even to this day, the spirit of the
ex-cab driver from Virginia remains.
African-American Registry and NASCAR.com contributed
Anthony McClean is a Researcher/Reporter/Writer for ESPN and Black
Athlete Sports Network. You can also hear his sports commentaries
every Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. on "Sport Talk" on WCLM-AM 1450 in
Richmond, Virginia (www.wclmradio.com).
Wikipedia - Wendell Oliver Scott
Oliver Scott was an
stock car racing driver from
Danville, Virginia. During most of his career he was
the only African-American driver in
worked as a taxi driver, and learned to be a mechanic in
the Army during
WW II. After returning home he worked as a mechanic
and in the evenings sometimes delivered moonshine.
Scott began racing
1947 on local track in hobby, amateur and sportsman
classes. He met with gradually increasing success. In
1959 he won 22 races, the Richmond track
championship, and the Virginia state sportsman title.
1961 he moved up to the NASCAR Grand National (now
Nextel Cup) division. In the
1963 season, he finished 15th in points, and on
1963 he won a race at
Jacksonville, Florida on the one mile dirt track at
Speedway Park -- the first and to date only top level
NASCAR event won by an African-American. He continued to
be a competitive driver despite his low-budget operation
through the rest of the
He was forced to
retire due to injuries from a racing accident at
Talladega, Alabama in
1973. He achieved one win and 147 top ten finishes
in 495 career Grand National starts.
The movie "Greased
Richard Pryor was a loose biography of Wendell
all the trophies Wendell Scott won in his racing career,
there is one that will forever be his legacy to the
sport he loved.
It isn't much to
look at, just some off-color wood with no plaque or
varnish or glitzy, gimmicky metalwork. It pales in
comparison to the gleaming, brightly polished trophies
is sits among.
But that piece of wood, battered
and beaten and sorry compared to the others, is the symbol of Scott's
greatest day as a racing driver. It was Dec. 1, 1963, the day he won a
NASCAR Grand National event in Jacksonville, Fla. Scott remains to this
day the only black driver to have won a Grand National (now Nextel Cup)
Series event in NASCAR's 58-year history.
During the 42 years since Scott
earned his victory -- which, given the times and the area in which it
occurred was not celebrated as victories always have been, in Victory
Lane with a trophy queen and photographers -- no black driver has even
been close to accomplishing the same feat.
Randy Bethea shocked the NASCAR
world in 1973 by knocking Darrell Waltrip off the pole at the Nashville
Fairgrounds Speedway, but that was in a Late Model Sportsman event, not
Grand National. Willy T. Ribbs, one of the finest road racers in the
world, tried out a stock car at Daytona but never qualified for the 500.
That's pretty much been it, in
terms of black names in Cup racing on the driving side since Scott won
at Jacksonville in 1963. Bill Lester has driven in Craftsman Truck races
who died in 1990, was from Danville, Va., just inside the state line
from North Carolina. It was an area rich in history for stock car
racers, and also an area where it was not unheard of to run illegal
whiskey from town to town in souped-up cars.
Scott was a taxi driver who
graduated to running moonshine and eventually to racing stock cars. For
any of those jobs, one had to be a master mechanic and a pretty nifty
driver. In 1959, at the age of 38, Scott won the Virginia State
Sportsman championship. Two years later, Scott was able to field a car
for the Grand National Series. In nearly 500 Grand National races, he
was in the top 10 an amazing 147 times.
Competing nose-to-nose with
what Scott had to go through to compete in those Grand National races,
it is even more amazing. The South in the early 1960s was still in the
grips of Jim Crow, Bull Conner and the sort of segregation that we today
know only through history books. Even on the day he won in Jacksonville,
the pervasive attitude of Southern society at the time prevented him
from receiving his due. "Everybody in the place knew I had won the
race," he said years later, "but the promoters and NASCAR officials
didn't want me out there kissing any beauty queens or accepting any
Despite racing on a budget that
made shoestrings seem expensive, Scott made it work. In 1966, he was a
career-best sixth in the points. Through it all, he held his own and
competed nose-to-nose with many of the legends whose achievements the
present-day NASCAR is built upon.
His driving career ended for all
intents and purposes in 1973, when he sustained three cracked ribs, a
lacerated arm and a cracked pelvis in a massive 21-car pileup at
Talladega Superspeedway. Ramo Stott's blown engine nine laps into
the race that day caused the crash, and Scott's Mercury was credited
with 55th place (out of 60 starters).
He died Dec. 22, 1990, after a
long battle with spinal cancer, some 27 years and 21 days after the
biggest victory of his career. He was later elected to the International
Motor Sports Hall of Fame, located, ironically, in Talladega, Ala.
"I'm so glad we never gave up,"
said Scott's widow Mary. "When Ned Jarrett and all of those old drivers
came to Scott's funeral, they told us he had the respect of all the
drivers. I'd say all of those older guys learned to like him and respect
him. They knew he was a genuine person and he stood for what he
believed. He didn't give up."
Scott's son, Franklin, said that
his father had earned his respect by competing with the best in the
business and never giving an inch despite the fact that he was at a huge
disadvantage in both finances and resources. As his father's crew chief,
Franklin didn't get to see his dad win at Jacksonville, having stayed
behind to play in a high school football game that weekend.
never forget it," Franklin Scott said. "I was playing football that
weekend and I was home and got on the bus and a guy on the bus, a friend
of mine who was a real joker, said, 'Your dad won a race today.' I said,
'Yeah, sure.' And he said, 'No, your old man won today.' I still didn't
Wendell had won the race, by two
laps over Buck Baker, but NASCAR waved the checkered flag over Baker and
awarded him the trophy. Hours later, NASCAR officials told him he really
did win the race. "My dad went off then," Franklin Scott said. "He said,
'Give me my damn money.' Buck got the real trophy. The thing we got was
junk. They gave us a trophy about a month later at Savannah. But it
wasn't the real thing."
While it didn't make much sense to
Franklin at the time, it did later. It was racism, pure and simple. "I
guess it all was just a sign of the times." he said. "The opportunity
for a black man to race just wasn't there. He overcame many hurdles and
he never let it faze him to the point where it made him hostile. I don't
know how he was able to do that. It was difficult for me when I would
see a lot of the things I wouldn't understand why my daddy didn't put
them in the wall. I thought he was afraid. He wasn't afraid ... he was
thinking about the next race."
While there were many similar
incidents over the years, one stands out to Franklin. In 1962, Jack
Smith watched Wendell shatter his track record at Savannah, Ga., in
a car Scott bought from Jarrett. Smith marched over to Scott's pit and
told him that he would drive right through Scott's car that night in the
race. Scott finished second to Jarrett that night, and though Smith
didn't apologize to Scott, Joe Weatherly did. "Joe Weatherly
came to our pits after the race," Franklin remembered. "He said,
'Wendell, I just came to apologize for the rest of the stupid SOBs.' "
to Franklin Scott, Smith kept at it until one day Wendell had
enough. "He [Smith] had wrecked us up at Winston-Salem and my daddy had
had it with him," Franklin recalled. "On the pace lap he pulled up
beside Daddy and started pointing his finger at him. We didn't know it
but Daddy had his gun with him and he pulled it out and pointed the gun
back. We never had trouble with Jack again."
It is hard to imagine something
like that happening today. Because of men like Wendell Scott and Randy Bethea, black drivers are getting a chance to prove themselves
in the arena of competition. NASCAR and corporate America have awakened
to the fact that there are more Wendell Scotts out there, and they are
bound and determined to find them.
Inside the Numbers
Wendell Scott's Career Stats
1 Pole Award
August 29, 1921
Died: December 23, 1990
Children: Wendell Jr., Frank, Ann,
Deborah, Kay, Sybil, Michael
Life Depicted in the Hollywood Movie,
"Greased Lightning", 1977
Owner of Scott's
Garage 1949 - 1990
12/1/1963 (64 season)
Oliver Scott, born August 29, 1921 in the 'Crooktown'
section of Danville, Virginia, was a remarkable man and accomplished
many feats. Scott was the first, and remains the only, African-American
to compete in and own a NASCAR team.
Wendell Scott began his career,
as did many drivers of the era, off the track. He gained seat time
driving a taxi in Danville as fast as it could go, and hauled moonshine
whiskey at night. Scott accumulated 13 speeding tickets in his taxi,
which caused him to lose his chauffeurs license. Hauling bootleg was
exciting to him; he could buy liquor for 55 cents a pint and sell it for
twice that amount, plus he had practice racing from the police and
leaving them in a cloud of dust. He often bragged about how he could out
run the police, for instance getting so far ahead and hiding in the
shadows of the night until the police would come flying by. He was not
always lucky though, and once was caught and placed on probation.
1949, a race promoter for the Danville Fairgrounds, in a quest to
increase attendance for the track, was seeking an African-American to
race. He went to the Danville police station to obtain a name, where the
police promptly referred him to Wendell Scott. The promoter made Scott
an offer, and he agreed with much enthusiasm. Scott used to watch the
races with a friend and would often say, if given the chance, he would
Scott raced in the modified and
sportsman division early in his career on dirt tracks in places such as
Staunton, Lynchburg, Waynesboro, Roanoke, Zion's Crossroads,
Ruckersville, and Natural Bridge in Virginia, and Hagerstown in
Maryland. Scott also raced on the sands of Daytona in the 1950's. In
this division, Scott won a total of 128 races. He was the Virginia State
Champion in 1959, and the Southside Speedway Champion in that same year.
In 1961, Scott, along with his wife Mary, decided to make the move to
the highest level of racing,
NASCAR Grand National Division (now known as Winston Cup). He had to
make the transition from dirt track to pavement, racing against such
drivers as Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Earl Brooks, Glen Wood, and Lee
and Richard Petty. He also faced the challenge of going into many
different tracks in the deep South at a time when segregation and racism
were strong and brutal. Scott would confront many obstacles during his
career in racing, often being hit on the track deliberately by other
drivers, denied expense money, and turned away from tracks all because
of the color of his skin. He loved racing, however, and took the bad
with the good.
1963 NASCAR ran a split season and in December of that year, which
started the 1964 season, Scott made automotive racing history. At
Speedway Park in Jackson, Florida, in a 100-mile feature race, Wendell
Scott finished the race first in what should have been the greatest day
of his life. However, it turned out to be one of the worst when Scott
was denied the win to Buck Baker. Scott and his team protested the call
and after three hours of consultation a NASCAR official declared Scott
as the winner. They labeled the incident as a scoring error, marking him
a lap down. Scott actually ran 202 laps in the 200-lap event. It was
later said that NASCAR ruled the finish out of fear of what might happen
if Scott were to pull into victory lane in front of a crowd of white
spectators. Scott said that he never would have kissed the beauty queen,
but only shook her hand. Scott also noted that every time he passed
Baker he would wave at him. This incident troubled Scott for the rest of
his life. He wanted to hear his name and car number being announced over
the speaker in victory lane. He did receive the winner's purse but never
got the trophy for his driving performance.
Scott continued to race
until a near death car crash in 1973 at Talladega Speedway in Alabama
forced him to retire. He didn't have factory backing, but he did have
spirit and his family: wife Mary, sons Wendell Jr., Franklin, and
Michael, and daughters Willie Ann, Deborah, Cheryl, and Sybil.
- Warner Books, 1977
GREASED LIGHTNING - Sphere
Books (UK) 1977
GREASED LIGHTNING (Film) - Warner
GREASED LIGHTNING: Review by Nick Martin & Marsha Porter
Video Movie Guide 2000,
Greased Lightning is a funny
and exciting film. Richard Pryor is a knockout in the
lead role, and the film is a real audience pleaser. Because
the story is true, it carries a punch even Rocky
couldn't match. Wendell Scott's story is more
dramatic. Scott was the first black man to win a
NASCAR Grand National stock car race.
Pryor, Pam Grier, Beau Bridges, Cleavon Little, Richie
(1977, Rated PG, Approx 96 Min., Color.)
Wendell, the Man.
away in a corner of Mary Scott’s trophy case in her Danville, Va., home
is a pathetic excuse of a trophy. It’s off-brown, hardly more than a
stick of wood covered with a little varnish. There’s no brass nameplate,
nothing to reveal its history, its origin.
On a shelf filled with dazzling gold trophies and beautiful silver
bowls, this bland memento is sorely out of place. Most people probably
would have thrown it on the trash heap years ago, but in the Scott
household, it will never be moved. This trophy is the centerpiece of
Wendell Scott’s stock car racing career. It was the paltry reward for
his only big-time win, and for Scott’s family it is emblematic of a
black man’s struggle in a white man’s sport.
More than anything else, Wendell Scott was a man of courage and
conviction, with a good sense of humor mixed in. At a time when blacks
were just making inroads into baseball in the metropolitan centers of
our country, Scott was trying to do the same in the world of Southern
stock car racing. Some say he succeeded, others say he failed. One thing
is certain - he made an indelible mark.
By the time he left the
sport in 1973, after a horrendous crash at Talladega, Ala., that almost
crippled him physically
and left him paralyzed financially, Scott had won the admiration and
respect of fans and fellow competitors.
"I’m so glad
we never gave up," said Scott’s widow, Mary. "When Ned (Jarrett) and all
of those old drivers came to Scott’s funeral, they told us he had the
respect of all the drivers. I’d say all of those older guys learned to
like him and respect him. They knew he was a genuine person and he stood
for what he believed. He didn’t give up."
He had every reason to, though. It probably would
have been much simpler for Scott to walk away from racing and return to
his Danville garage as a full-time mechanic. That would have been the
easy way out.
never made a lot of money in the sport, just a tad over $180,000 in
almost 500 NASCAR Grand National races. Early in his career, he was
looked down upon by fellow drivers and was forced to bear the
indignities of blatant racism. When he finally did win - he couldn’t
enjoy the excitement of seeing the checkered flag wave over his car or
the roar of the crowd.
"Scott, the only Negro driver on the Late Model Stock
Car racing circuit, drove a 1962 Chevrolet. The veteran of 12 years of
racing was two laps ahead of the field at the finish, but due to a
scoring error, was thought to be in third place," reported a wire
service the day after the race. "Buck Baker of Charlotte, N.C. was
flagged as the winner in a 1963 Pontiac."
Scoring error? Scott never thought so. But he endured
that episode, as he endured the many other injustices of the time and he
did so with great pride, head held high. The two were inexorably
intertwined in his life. He never compromised the two. He raced hard and
he raised six children as well as any man ever could. But racing was an
undeniably large part of their young lives. It was more than a family
livelihood, it was a source of fun, a source of learning and a source of
love for a family that thrived on togetherness, be it at the race track
or in the living room.
On Dec. 22, 1990, Wendell Scott died, finally giving
way to the ravages of spinal cancer. Yet, his spirit and memory lives on
in the hearts and memories of family, fans and friends.
Never "Wendell." That’s how Mary Scott refers he husband and always
has, ever since she met him in 1940. It is, she says, her little pet
name for the man she stood beside for more than 46 years.
Scott. It softly rolls from her mouth with waves of
love and respect. Scott. When she speaks of him and their years
together, her eyes sparkle. Sometimes they get a little moist with
When Mary met Wendell Scott he was driving a taxicab
in Danville. Little did she know then what a large role driving and cars
would play in their future together. They went out a few times before
Scott was called to service in World War II and shortly after his
discharge in 1944 the two were married. He’d been a mechanic in the
Army, and that should have been the second tip-off to the new bride that
automobiles would dominate the coming years. He opened a garage on
spring street in Danville, fixing cars during the day and running
moonshine at night. Along about that time, Mary finally got the hint.
"I knew when I first met him he loved speed," Mary
said in a recent interview. "He used to fly all the time. In those years
they opened a raceway in Danville and somebody approached him about
driving. They were trying to see which black men they could get
involved, who could be a good driver.
"They went to the police, now this is true, and
wanted to find out who the fastest black man around was. Scott
wasrunning moonshine back then, and the police were able to tell them he
was the only one they could never catch."
So, in 1949 Mary and Wendell went stock car racing;
they went racing off into uncharted waters for a black man and woman.
And by gosh, could her man drive a race car. For a decade he terrorized
the little dusty quarter-mile and three-eighths mile dirt tracks
throughout southern Virginia and into the Carolinas. By 1959 he had
really arrived, winning the Sportsman championship at Southside Speedway
in Richmond and NASCAR’s Virginia State Sportsman Championship.
remember when he first decided to race" recalled Mary. "He used a"39
Ford his brother-in-law had. They made a race car out of it. That was
before all these real strict rules. He had the passenger side tied with
a chain or something. I was never really against him starting to race. I
knew it was what he wanted. It was exciting and all of us were kind of
crazy and didn’t think about the seriousness of it al
In 1961, Wendell decided it was time to make a move.
He had almost 200 weekly-racing wins to his credit. There were bigger
tracks to run and better drivers to challenge. So he left the Sportsman
and Modified ranks and went big-time - Grand National racing. It was a
move that affected the entire Scott family. The trips became marathons
and as much as possible, whenever Wendell went, the family followed.
"When the children were smaller, we traveled at night
when there was less traffic," said Mary. "we’d take the mattress out of
the baby bed and put it in the backseat of the car and we’d pull the
race car behind us. We didn’t even have a trailer to pull it on.
"A lot of our friends in Danville would tell us we
were unusual people, the way we went to races. They said they didn’t
know how we kept going, but we loved it. I stayed active in school
activities with our kids. I made outfits for plays and was in the PTA. I
was a ball of energy.
eschewed the track duties undertaken by many drivers’ wives, saying, "I
didn’t keep score for Scot but once or twice in his career." She was,
though, a jack-of-all-trades at the track, handling any crisis that
might come up. She was the team’s chef. Her culinary abilities were
legend, as recorded by a newspaper article in 1970.
"On Friday nights before a Sunday race she begins
cooking for the crew’s infield lunch - fried chicken, ham biscuits,
potato salad, deviled eggs - and since cooking is one of her favorite
endeavors, there is always plenty of others who might stop by."
"To stop on the highway to buy food for a big family,
well, that was out of the question," said Mary. "Even if we had money it
was always better if I cooked food and carried it along. We’ve gone on
long northern trips where I carried a lot of canned foods and I always
carried an electric coffeepot and a hot plate. It was a way to survive."
There were other reasons Mary packed food for those
road trips, though. It wasn’t easy in the early 1960s for a black
family to find a place to eat on the road.
"You have to remember back in the early days it
wasn’t even convenient for us to stop and buy food unless we went to the
back door," said Mary, who doesn’t talk about the problems the family
ran into traveling across the country. Instead, she likes to think about
it as one big learning experience. "In the early ‘60s, integration was
just starting to balloon. It was an adjustment for the white man as well
for us," she said. "We know how to survive. We never got into anything.
We taught our children that people are people and treat everybody
what about the way Wendell was treated by NASCAR officials?
"I’m sure if he was here today he’d tell you they
gave him a harder time than others, but as far as we know they may have
done the same thing to the other little guys who were struggling, too.
Sometimes he thought whatever he had right with his car, they (NASCAR)
would find fault with it. But he was so determined he didn’t let it get
Through it all, Wendell and Mary took care of their
six children - Wendell Jr., Franklin, Ann Deborah, Kay and Sybil. The
parents made sure all had the childhood necessities. All had the
opportunity to go to college.
"Sure, racing put a drain on us. He was operating on
his own. Had he not been a mechanic and done all of his own work and
made a living in his garage, we wouldn’t have survived," Mary said. "It
never drained us to where we were out of what we needed to live, but
there were times when we barely making it and when you do that, you soon
learn to do without things. You try to put your priorities in
"There were times when Wendell couldn’t wait to go to
Daytona in February to get his (points) bonus. He’d have to call
and get it early for tuition for one of his children."
It’s been more than two years now since Mary lost her
soul mate. Financially, she’s OK, not wealthy, but comfortable in the
Danville house that was Wendell’s grandmother’s. She’s full of life,
surrounded by children, grandchildren and memories of her Scott.
"I’m so grateful for all of the experiences we had.
We wouldn’t take anything for them. I feel like we made history," said
Mary. "Somebody asked me after Scott died what I was going to do. I said
I was going to stay right where Scott left me until the Lord came to get
me to be with him."
a youngster, Franklin Scott’s first
love was racing. That’s what he wanted to do more than anything else in
the world. Sure, he played the normal sports other kids were playing in
Danville in the early 1960s, but he didn’t want to be a baseball player
when he grew up. He wanted to drive stock cars.
His father made sure there was a backup plan, though.
Franklin went to college, became a teacher and a coach. Some 25 miles
west of the little shop where his father turned out race cars, he has
fashioned one of the most successful high school basketball programs in
Virginia. His Laurel Park Lancers are perennial state championship
contenders. Soon in the next couple of years or so, Franklin will chalk
up his 500the win.
That’s all fine, but as he settles into those
middle-age years, with one son in college and another his bona fide
court star at Laurel Park, he knows it could have been much different.
"I’m doing the second thing I wanted to do in life,"
said Frank. "The first thing was to be a racer. That was my dream. Me
and Dale Earnhardt used to play together as kids at the tracks.
His father drove a modified and my father drove a modified. A lot of the
older drivers, their sons are driving now..."
Franklin almost became a driver, though. His dad had
a car just about ready for him to drive once, but it never worked
out. Franklin was an integral part of the team, though, from the time he
was old enough to go to the races until his father finally closed up
shop in the early 1970s. Regardless of what else was going on in his
life, Wendell’s youngest son seldom missed the chance to be at his dad’s
"I grew up in racing. We
traveled as a family a lot and everybody had a role to play," Franklin
recalled. "I was the crew chief. I was entrusted with things that
related to the safety of the car. I was the one who changed the
right-front tire on the car. I would always be there. I would commute
when I was in college and after I had starting teaching."
Ironically, Franklin wasn’t around to see his dad get
that lone Grand National win at Jacksonville in 1963, even though he
witnessed the trophy presentation a month or so later. Frank had to stay
home for a high school football game that weekend early in December. He
was riding a city bus back to his Danville home when he got the word of
never forget it. I was playing football that weekend and I was home and
got on the bus and a guy on the bus, a friend of mine who was a real
joker, said, "Your dad won a race today." I said yeah, sure." And he
said, "No, your old man won today." I still didn’t believe him."
It was true. Wendell had won a race, but it took a
while to convince a lot of people - like the NASCAR officials. In a
story that is legend today, Wendell was awarded the win well after the
checkered flag had fallen on Buck Baker, well after Baker had
enjoyed the celebration and fanfare, well after Baker had left the dusty
half-mile track with trophy in hand.
"Dad had won the race and he knew it. They just
wouldn’t drop the checkered flag. They gave it to Buck Baker and
kept Daddy there all that time. Then they came out and said, "Wendell,
you did win."
"My dad went off then. He said, "Give me my damn
money." Buck got the real trophy. The thing we got was junk. They gave
us a trophy about a month later at Savannah. But it wasn’t the real
It was hard for Frank to understand what happened to
his dad that day in Jacksonville. Today, he calls it "a sign of the
times." Then he could only call it racism and he still doesn’t
understand how his dad endured.
"I guess it all was just a sign of the times. The
opportunity for a black man to race just wasn’t there. He overcame many
hurdles and he never let it faze him to the point where it made him
hostile. I don’t know how he was able to do that.
"It was difficult for me when I would see a lot of
the things I wouldn’t understand why my daddy didn’t put them in the
wall. I thought he was afraid. He wasn’t afraid... he was thinking about
the next race."
Franklin’s memory is littered with on-track incidents
he believes were race related. There are some that stand out more than
others. At Martinsville, Va., one spring, Franklin said, Bobby
Allison spun Wendell several times, but his dad never retaliated -
during the race.
even put up the on the pit board for him to spin Bobby, but he didn’t do
anything. When he came into the pits after the race, he got out of the
car, walked over to Bobby’s pits and told him if he ever did that to him
again, he’d whip his butt."
Most incidents were isolated, Franklin said, but it
seemed two drivers, Neil Castles and Jack Smith, carried a
continual grudge against his dad. Once in Savannah in 1962, Frank
recalled, his dad had just set a track record in time trial when an
irate Smith approached Wendell. Remembering the incident, Franklin said,
"Jack got mad that night, We had just bought a ’62 Chevy from Ned
Jarrett and we were fast. Daddy shattered the record and Jack was
third fastest. After the drivers meeting, Jack told my father he had
five race cars and when the flag dropped he would run through his old
It turned out, though, that the only driver who could
keep up with Wendell that day was Jarrett, who eventually won the race.
When the dust settled, Wendell got an apology, but not from Smith.
"Joe Weatherly came to our pits after the race
and he said, "Wendell, I just came to apologize for the rest of the
stupid sons of bitches."
There were other run-ins with Smith and finally the
elder Scott decided it was time to settle things once and for all.
"He (Smith) had wrecked us up at Winston-Salem (N.C.)
and my daddy had had it with him," said Franklin. "On the pace
lap he pulled up beside Daddy and started pointing his finger at him. We
didn’t know it but Daddy had his gun with him and he pulled it out and
pointed the gun back. We never had trouble with Jack again"
Once, Franklin remembers, in 1964, a promoter in
Atlanta called and told Wendell to stay home because the Klan had said
they’d make problems if he showed up at the track.
"We were working like mad on the car in the shop and
Daddy got off the phone with that guy from Atlanta, I asked him what he
was going to do. He said, "We’re loading this damned car up and we’re
going to Atlanta."
The records show that Scott did not go to that race,
but for every bad memory Franklin’s got a good one. There were other
teams fighting to stay alive on the circuit and they all fell in
together like a band of Gypsies. Color wasn’t an issue here. Money was
and these guys didn’t have much.
"There were a lot of guys out there struggling just
like us... Elmo Langley and Henley Gray and Jabe Thomas. We kept each
other going. I mean, they’d have a partial pit crew and we’d pit three
or four cars between us all."
The stars of the time -
Richard Petty, Joe
Weatherly, and Fireball Roberts - didn’t turn their backs totally on
Scott. There were cheap, but outdated parts available occasionally from
the factory teams. There were tires given when no one was looking. And
there were a lot of pats on the back.
"A guy would loan you a tool or a part. I remember
Tiny Lund one time in Jacksonville came over and told me to come
with him. He gave me four tires for us to qualify on. That’s the type of
guy he was," said Franklin.
"I can remember talking to
Richard (Petty) one
time in California after a race at Riverside. He said, "Franklin, when
do you think y’all get home? I told him at the earliest Thursday
evening. He told me he would be home that night, that he was on the way
to the airport. Richard always felt bad about the way we had to
struggle. Before I left he said to me, "You know what makes me mad, is
I’ve got all these people working for me and all this money and I’m not
running much damn faster than y’all."
first appeared in "American Racing Classics 1994/Vol3
permission of Street & Smith's Sports Group." by Mike
Parnelli Jones, Benny Parsons, & Wendell Scott
# 98 Holman & Moody
Real documented Holman
& Moody Ford Torino. Driven by Parnelli Jones,
Benny Parsons, and Wendell Scott.
Later used in the movie "Greased Lightning".
Restored in 1995-1999 to Benny Parsons championship
NASCAR Hall of Fame Worthy?
Nine others were selected by the author,
Throttle, here's the tenth:
And finally my tenth, and most controversial selection,
Wendell Scott. Scott came out of
Danville, Virginia to become, to date, the only
African-American to win a
Grand National (now
Cup) event in
Jacksonville Fla., a one-mile dirt track. The year was
1963, and due to the color of his skin he wasn’t
initially awarded the victory. Scott was two laps in
front of the second place car driven by Buck Baker (also
a legitimate contender for the first Hall class) in that
event. NASCAR wouldn’t drop the checkered flag
fearing a riot if a black man won, so Buck Baker took
the checkered flag and enjoyed the celebration and the
trophy. He finished that year in a second hand car
bought from Ned Jarrett and placed 15th in points. In
May of 1964, Scott was down on his luck and almost out
of racing when Ned Jarrett set up a deal for Scott. He
was able to obtain a Holman-Moody Ford that had been
raced the year before in
for a dollar. Driving
that car, Scott finished 12 in points despite missing
several races. Over the next five years, Scott
consistently finished in the Top Ten in the point
standings. He moved up to 11th in 1965, was a
career-high 6th in 1966, 10th in 1967, and finished 9th
in both 1968 and ‘69. His top year in winnings was 1969
when he won $47,451. Through all the under funded cars,
pit crews made up of family members, and yes, a ton of
blatant racism, Scott persevered until he was forced to
leave NASCAR in 1973 following a crash at
Talladega that almost left him crippled. He will forever
be remembered for the role he played in the history of
NASCAR. He is well deserving of being
among the first elected to
NASCAR’s Hall of Fame.
Some of the awards he received include the following:
* State of Florida Citation for Outstanding Achievements, 1965
* First Curtis Turner Memorial Award, 1971
* Special Olympics Service Award, 1974
* Schafer Brewing Company Achievement Award, 1975
* NASCAR Recognition of Achievement Award, 1975
* Bont Cultural Council Achievement Award, Greenville, SC, 1977
* Tobaccoland 100 Award for the finest NASCAR Driver via Major Henry
Marsh, III, 1978
* Black Rose Community Service Award, 1980
* Muscular Dystrophy Association Award for Achievements, Roanoke, VA,
* Danville, Virginia Citizenship Award, 1985
* Virginia Skyline Girl Scout Council, Inc., Award for Outstanding
* Proclamation of Atlanta, Georgia and Danville, Virginia, 1986
* Early Dirt Racers ' Driver of the Year Award, 1990
* Resolution from Virginia General Assembly, 'State Hero, 'January 1991
* Winston Cup R.J. Reynolds Pioneer Award, 1986
* Driver of the Year Award, 'Old Timers Racing Class', 1990
* Induction into Black Athletes Hall of Fame, 1977
* Induction into Jacksonville, Florida Hall of Fame, 1994
* Induction into Danville Register and Bee Sports Hall of Fame, 1996
* Induction into National Sports Hall of Fame, Detroit, 1997
* Induction into International Motorsport Hall of Fame, 1999
* Induction into Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, 2000
* Induction into National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame,
Grand National / Winston Cup Statistics
||23 of 52
||41 of 53
||47 of 55
||56 of 62
||52 of 55
||45 of 49
||45 of 49
||48 of 49
||51 of 54
||41 of 48
||37 of 48
||6 of 31
||3 of 28
Julian Spivey Driver Insider Writer
Date: Feb 18, 2005
Not only is February the opening of NASCAR’s new season,
it is also black history month. A month in which the lives
and the struggle of a race and its leaders are celebrated.
This is the time of year to also remember and pay tribute to
one of NASCAR’s forgotten legends, Wendell Scott, the only
African-American to win a NASCAR event in its more than
fifty years of existence.
Wendell Scott’s struggle was
like many African-Americans, a struggle to survive. Scott was a
black man trying to make it in the white man’s sport of Southern
stock car racing.
After serving his country during World War II, Wendell came back
home to Danville, Virginia, where he began to work on cars
during the day and run moonshine at night. Wendell was the best
moonshine runner around, as he was never caught by the local
police. In 1949, he and his wife, Mary, ventured into the world
of stock car racing.
For a decade Wendell Scott dominated the small quarter-mile and
three-eighths mile dirttracks throughout southern Virginia and
the Carolinas. In 1959, Scott reached the pinnacle of his career
winning the Sportsman championship at Southside Speedway in
Richmond and NASCAR’s Virginia State Sportsman championship. In
1961 Scott made the leap from the short tracks of Virginia to
the ranks of the NASCAR Grand National Series. The move washard
on the family as the trips became longer and Mary and the six
kids came along. In 1963 Wendell Scott became the first
African-American to win a NASCAR event at Jacksonville.
In the early
days after the late H. Clay Earles paved the
Martinsville Speedway, Spider Stultz can be
found on the outside going into Turn 1. Spider is
driving the car that is running just outside the
#11 car being driven by the late
Wendell Scott of
However, due to the color of his skin he wasn’t
initially awarded the victory. Wendell Scott was two laps in
front of the second place car driven by Buck Baker in that
event. NASCAR wouldn’t drop the checkered flag fearing a riot if
a black man won, so Buck Baker took the checkered flag and
enjoyed the celebration and the trophy. Wendell grew enraged at
NASCAR’s decision, knowing he had been wrongfully robbed. Scott
was awarded the victory a few days later and awarded a trophy a
month later in Savannah. It wasn’t the real trophy though; it
was hardly more than a stick of wood covered with varnish. No
nameplate of nothing. Nothing to signify its significance.
Wendell’s son, Franklin, remembers the trouble his father went
through because of his race.
Franklin said that it seemed two drivers, Neil
Castles and Jack Smith, really had it in for his father. Once in
Savannah in 1962, Wendell had just set a track record in the
time trial when Smith approached and told Scott that his five
cars would run through Scott’s Chevrolet when the flag dropped.
It turned out though that none of Smith’s cars could keep up
with Scott’s car as he finished second in the race to Ned
Jarrett. After the race Scott received an apology, but not from
Smith. Franklin remembers, "Joe Weatherly came to our pit after
the race and he said, "Wendell, I just came to apologize for the
rest of those stupid sons of bitches." After a few run-ins with
Smith, Scott decided that he’d had enough. Smith had wrecked
Scott at Winston-Salem.
On the pace lap Smith pulled alongside Scott and started
pointing at him. Scott whipped out a gun and pointed it at
Smith. The Scott’s never had trouble with Jack Smith again.
Despite some driver’s racism toward Scott, not all drivers felt
the same way. Richard Petty, Joe Weatherly, and Fireball Roberts
were among the stars that helped Scott out. One time in
Jacksonville, Tiny Lund came over and gave Scott four tires to
qualify on. Most stock car drivers respected Scott because he
was a lot like them.
Wendell Scott was forced to leave NASCAR in 1973
following a crash at Talladega Superspeedway that almost left
him crippled. Wendell Scott died of spinal cancer on December
22, 1990. He will forever be remembered for the role he played
in the history of NASCAR.
Copyright © 2003
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
06/08/12 08:11:18 -0400.
All materials posted herein are protected by
copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.
FAIR USE NOTICE:
This web page may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been
specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This page is operated under the
assumption that this use on the Web constitutes a 'fair use' of the
copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
text or images that you feel need to be removed please
LegendsofNascar.com is not associated or affiliated with any racing club or
organizations including that of NASCAR.
It is constructed simply as an internet information source. Images and
content made be used with
Opinions and other content are not necessarily those of editors, sponsors.
Please visit official NASCAR information website at