Wendell Scott was recently inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, something that was long overdue. Scott was the first African-American who won at NASCAR’s highest major league level, something that hasn’t been matched since.
Scott started racing in 1947 after three years serving in the US Army motor pool. He was an instant success, winning over 100 trophies within the next decade. He obtained his NASCAR license in 1953, which made him the first African American to ever compete in it. In 1959, he won the NASCAR Virginia Sportsman championship.
Scott really made a name for himself in 1961, when he joined NASCAR’s premier series, the Grand National Series. In his first season, he made 23 starts and had five top-5 finishes.
On December 1, 1963, Scott made history by becoming the first ever African-American to win a NASCAR premier series event. In 13 years, Scott made 495 starts, placing him at 37th on the all-time list. He had twenty top-5 finishes, including eight in one season. He also made the top 10 147 times, which is over a quarter of his total races.
Scott’s career is even more impressive if you consider the challenges he faced as an African American during the mid-20th century in the United States.
There are certain speedways on which he was not allowed to race. When he raced in Jacksonville in 1963, he beat all the other drivers, but the checkered flag did not drop until the next two drivers finished.
He was a finalist, but not a winner, for several hours, until virtually everyone was gone. And then, he only got a check; he was never awarded the trophy he deserved. The main reason for this was that the lady who kissed the winning driver was a white beauty queen.
Scott endured this and a lot more instances of racism, from death threats to deliberately poor officiating. However, the fact that he never gave up elevated him above a lot of other drivers. He truly was an incredible race car driver, from beginning to end, and for this, we consider him a legend.