Today we honor one of the first Black NASCAR drivers.
Scott was born in Danville, Virginia on August 29,1921. At early age he learned to work with card from his father William that worked as a driver and mechanic for two wealthy white families in town. His father unfortunately had a horrible gambling problem which led to the split of his parents. As a result from the stress of the divorce Scott developed a terrible stutter.
Due to the times even children had to get jobs to help the family finances. He dropped out of school in 11th grade, worked a variety of jobs, and was soon drafted into the army to fight in World War II. After the war, he began building and driving his own cars to sell and deliver moonshine whiskey. Selling moonshine ended up leading to his start as a race car driver because he developed impeccable driving skills and he spent most of his career as a moonshine runner outrunning the cops.
Wendell began to fall in love with the art of driving. He believed that he could out run any driver. He started to take note of other drivers then eventually decided to compete in stock races. On May 23, 1952 Wendell brought one of his best “moonshine-running” cars to the track and became one first black stock car racers in the south. Unfortunately during his first race his car broke down, but that didn’t stop Wendell from pursuing a career in racing.
He caught wind there would be a NASCAR race in High Point, North Carolina so he and his friends headed to High Point. While he was gearing up for the race his friends filled the stands, but this took the officials by surprise because they thought he was white. It wasn’t until they saw his friends did they realize Scott was Black. So the track officials decided he couldn’t enter the race because he was Black. This experience left Scott in tears, but he didn’t let that stop him either. He started racing in a smaller league called the Dixie Circuit where he won an armature class short heat race.
Fans and other riders did everything they could to crush his spirit but Scott stayed strong. Eventually, he began to win them all over and everyone got used to a Black man being in NASCAR. He went on to race in nearly 500 NASCAR Grand National events and earned more than $180,000 in competitions. After a racing accident, Scott was forced to retire from racing. He finished his career with 147 top ten finishes.
Wendell Scott died from prostrate cancer on December 23, 1990 . At his funeral, Ned Jarrett said “I don’t know of any man in the sport that worked any harder than he did or accomplished more than he did with what he had… He built a lot of respect… More important, he helped to open many minds and hearts… He was not as fortunate as some of us as to the type of equipment he had to drive. But he went out there and toiled and made it work and won – not only won races but won the hearts of people around the world.”