Pioneering stock car racing legend Wendell Scott was posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., Jan. 30.
The Danville, Va., native wasn’t the first African American to compete in NASCAR’s premier series, but he was the first to do so full-time and the first to claim gold in the league’s highest echelons.
“The legacy of Wendell Scott depicts him as one of the great vanguards of the sport of NASCAR racing,” said the late Scott’s son, Franklin, who accepted induction on his behalf. “Daddy was a man of great honor. He didn’t let his circumstances define who he was.”
A mechanic by training, Scott began racing in 1947 after three years of service in the U.S. Army motor pool. Scott seemed born to sit behind the wheel. Over the next decade, he won over 100 races at local area tracks, including 22 races at Southside Speedway in Richmond, Va., in 1959, earning him that year’s NASCAR Virginia Sportsman championship.
Scott made his debut in NASCAR’s premier series March 4, 1961, at Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds in Spartanburg, S.C., according to an article on NASCAR.com. He made 23 starts that season, posting five top-five finishes. On Dec. 1, 1963, at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla., Scott became the first African-American to win a NASCAR premier series event. He also won the third race of the 1964 season.
Over his 13-year career in the premier league, Scott made 495 starts, which ranks 37th on the all-time list. He also posted 20 top-five finishes and 147 top-10 finishes, more than 25 percent of the races he entered.
NASCAR had honored Scott’s legacy by awarding scholarships in his name. It also confers the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award to a minority or female driver in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series who has demonstrated significant contributions on and off the track.
“Daddy realized that life has a generational component and he predicted a lot of what is happening. He would be delighted and happy that there is evidence of more opportunities for diversity and inclusion,” Franklin Scott said.
He concluded his speech with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” he said. “Wendell O. Scott Sr. stood the test of time.”
Scott was enshrined in the sixth induction class of the now 30-member Hall along with Bill Elliott, Fred Lorenzen, Joe Weatherly and Rex White.