George Diaz: Wendell Scott rises above racist roar to become Hall of Famer

A black man once dismissed as an interloper when he raced in the 1960s and early ‘70s is now among the NASCAR legends, alongside Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty and the rest of the bunch.
Jun 4, 2014

 

 

Wendell Scott is in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Let that percolate for a while. A black man once dismissed as an interloper when he raced in the 1960s and early ‘70s is now among the NASCAR legends, alongside Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty and the rest of the bunch.

It took a while. A few years and a few snubs raised questions whether the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting committee would get it right. But it finally did.

Big time.

Scott recently became one of five drivers elected into NASCAR’s hallowed hall, which also comes with the distinction of becoming the only black driver to earn that honor in NASCAR history.

The record says that Scott won only one race during his NASCAR career, which is one of the most misleading statistics in the history of sports. Scott raced with a bunch of hand-me-down parts — tires, batteries, engines, anything else that other drivers didn’t need.

“Wendell Scott — if he had had the proper equipment, I believe would have been a winner a lot of times,” said Rex White, another Hall of Fame inductee. “He was good on dirt; he was even good on pavement. But Wendell didn’t have the money or the proper equipment to get to the front.”

Scott wasn’t like Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, a new generation minority racer embraced by the masses. Scott was dealing with all the backlash and racism of a black man trying to make a living in a white man’s world.

Officials ignored the fact that he won that race in Jacksonville in 1963 and tried to give the victory to a white driver because they didn’t want a black man posing for a picture with a white trophy girl in Victory Lane. Scott’s tires once got slashed before a race. NASCAR officials once insisted that Scott and his crew would have to shave their beards in Bristol if they wanted to compete in a race. Richard Petty intervened on Scott’s behalf, and the beards stayed.

But the discrimination never really went away. Scott, always proud, always resilient, refused to go away as well.

His family gathered at Charlotte Motor Speedway to reminisce about those days last weekend. Sadly, Wendell Scott died in 1990 and could not share the moment. But there wasn’t a shred of bitterness over the past. Instead, two sons and a daughter reflected with pride over Daddy’s accomplishments.

“I think that Daddy would have wanted to share this moment with as many people as he could who have been a part of his struggles,” said one of his daughters, Sybil Scott. “The person who Daddy was, he wouldn’t be walking around letting the bitterness have any role in what’s going on right now.”

He stood tall. He persevered.

On paper, Scott only has one victory and 147 top-10 finishes. This is one absolute case in which statistics lie.

Wendell Scott is a Hall of Famer, by any definition or standards.

 

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