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This date marks the birth of Wendell Scott in 1921. He was a Black race car driver.
Wendell Oliver 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 because of Jim Crow Laws. 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.
He won 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 and Scott was denied the opportunity to celebrate in Victory Circle. NASCAR 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. Scott blended driving talent and determination into a long career on the otherwise all-white NASCAR Grand National tour. He is the only Black person to win a major-league NASCAR race. He raced only a few times afterward. Wendell Scott died in 1990.
American Legacy Magazine
Various article authors
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