Home  NAME LIST  Stories  Statistics  Links  Contact



Wendell Scott
August 28, 1921 - December 23, 1990

New Video at Page Bottom!

Wendell Scott, the only black driver in NASCAR for virtually all of his career, probably earned more respect than he did money. His career was a constant struggle with low budgets.

     The Danville, VA native started racing in 1947. In his first race, he finished third in a borrowed car, won $50 and was hooked. In the next few years he won 128 hobby, amateur and modified races, on the old Dixie Circuit and outlaw tracks. In 1959, Scott enjoyed his best season ever. He won 22 races and captured the Richmond track championship as well as the Virginia State Sportsman title.

     Low budget operations such as Scott's often need a helping hand, and both Earl Brooks and Ned Jarrett have been credited by Scott as being a big help to him during his career. He and Brooks often traveled together. On the family side, Scott often used his sons as members of his pit crew.

     Scott bought a year-old Chevrolet from Buck Baker in 1961 and moved up to NASCAR's Grand National (now Winston Cup) division. In 1963, driving a car he bought from Ned Jarrett, Scott finished 15 in the points.

     NASCAR ran a split season then, and the third race of the 1964 season was on December 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, a one-mile dirt track. Scott beat Buck Baker to become the first black to win on NASCAR's highest level, a distinction he still holds.

     In May of 1964, Scott was down on his luck and almost out of racing when Ned Jarrett set up a deal for Scott. He was able to obtain a Holman-Moody Ford that had been raced the year before in USAC for a dollar. Driving that car, Scott finished 12 in points despite missing several races. Over the next five years, Scott consistently finished in the Top Ten in the point standings.

     He moved up to 11th in 1965, was a career-high 6th in 1966, 10th in 1967, and finished 9th in both 1968 and '69. His top year in winnings was 1969 when he won $47,451.

Wendell Scott, 1999 Inductee

Wendell Scott Followed His Dream To Race
Written by Ray Everett    12/3/08

Like many of the early NASCAR drivers, Wendell Scott started out hauling moonshine in a souped up car he maintained himself. Scott was a clever entrepanuer, opening a taxi service in his native Danville, Virginia to shuttle the local residents around town by day, then using the cab under the cover of darkness to bring them the white lightning they were thirsty for

With his popularity among the moonshiners growing as word of his driving ability spread through the mid Atlantic region, Scott began entering races at local dirt tracks throughout Virginia and North Carolina in 1952. He tasted success only one month into his driving career, winning his first race on the red clay half mile in Lynchburg, Virginia at the age of thirty.

Determined to move up in the sport of stock car racing, Wendell Scott traveled the south during segregation, showing up at NASCAR events with his number thirty four ready to race. He was turned away from many tracks, told by speedway personnel that he would not be able to compete due to the color of his skin. Encountering signs at restrooms, water fountains and restaurants that read "White Only" was a common occurence for Scott, who never seemed to let it bother him. "I expected all of that," he said of his trials to become a NASCAR driver in segregated America.

Wendell Scott was issued a NASCAR license for the first time and allowed to compete at the old Richmond Speedway in Virginia, either in 1952 or 1953. NASCAR is not certain of the exact date but believes it to be 1953. Record books indicate that Scott went on to compete in four hundred ninty five Grand National and Winston Cup - known today as the Sprint Cup Series - events over thirteen seasons and collected $180,814 in purse winnings. He is credited with one NASCAR win, a controversial race held on December 1, 1963 in Jacksonville, Florida. Buck Baker was flagged the winner and celebrated in victory circle after Scott had passed Richard Petty, who was nursing a damaged car, for the lead with twenty five laps remaining. Scott was awarded the victory hours after the race was completed and left the track that day without the winners trophy. Many said NASCAR would not allow him to celebrate in victory lane because he would have had to kiss a white beauty queen.

Scott retired from NASCAR racing in 1973 and returned to driving the short tracks of Virginia and the Carolina's for a few more years, entering select events when circumstances would allow. Later in life he would become dissatisfied with his racing career, firmly believing he hadn't the opportunity to showcase his talent in competitive equipment. Scott worked diligently throughout his career, without success, to obtain factory support and major sponsorship for his racing efforts. Ned Jarrett and Richard Petty were among his strongest supporters

"I was a black man. They wasn't going to help a black man. That was all there was to it," Scott once said in summing up the prejudice his career suffered.

A hard working and humble man, Scott struggled tremendously to raise seven children while running the family auto repair business and pursuing his racing dream. He was popular among NASCAR race fans, taking the time one sunny afternoon in 1973 at the North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, North Carolina to accommodate this writers request for an autograph and conversation of the days events.

Greased Lightning, a movie detailing the history of Scott's career, was produced in 1977 and starred Richard Pryor as Wendell Scott. Scott worked with the producers and was promised royalties, but never received any.

Wendell Scott passed away on December 23, 1990 at the age of sixty nine.

A member of several state and regional halls of fame, Scott was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall Of Fame at Talledega in 1999 and the National Motorsports Press Association Hall Of Fame at Darlington in 2000.

It is no doubt Wendell Scott was a genuine racer who accomplished great things in the face of adversity. He was a man ahead of his time, possessing a burning desire to succeed in the sport he dearly loved. Let his path and message serve as an example to us all.

Racing Pioneer Wendell Scott by Tony McClean

Today we take a look at one of the first African-Americans to thrive and win on the NASCAR circuit. You may already have heard of the name of Wendell Scott if you're a fan of comedian-actor Richard Pryor. Back in 1977, Pryor starred in "Greased Lightning", a movie depicting the life of Mr. Scott.

Scott, who endured severe discrimination during his days as a driver, raced throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. He finished sixth in the Winston Cup standings in 1966 with 21,702 points. Only 1,250 points separated Scott and third-place finisher Richard Petty, who is arguably the greatest driver ever.

Born Aug. 28, 1921, 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. 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.

On February 10, 1952, Joie Ray started 25th in the Daytona 500 course in his Henry J. Ray went on to finish 51st that day and is recognized as being the first African-American driver to start a NASCAR sanctioned race.

Scott would go on to win 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, but Scott was denied the opportunity to celebrate in Victory Circle.

Wendell with Jabe ThomasNASCAR 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. He raced only a few times afterward. Wendell Scott passed away in 1990. But the legacy of Scott hasn't been forgotten.

Even to this day, the spirit of the ex-cab driver from Virginia remains.
Note: The African-American Registry and NASCAR.com contributed
Anthony McClean is a Researcher/Reporter/Writer for ESPN and Black Athlete Sports Network.  You can also hear his sports commentaries every Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. on "Sport Talk" on WCLM-AM 1450 in Richmond, Virginia (www.wclmradio.com).

Wikipedia  -  Wendell Oliver Scott

Click for the Intl Motorsports Hall of FameWendell Oliver Scott  was an American stock car racing driver from Danville, Virginia. During most of his career he was the only African-American driver in NASCAR.

He initially worked as a taxi driver, and learned to be a mechanic in the Army during WW II. After returning home he worked as a mechanic and in the evenings sometimes delivered moonshine.

Scott began racing in 1947 on local track in hobby, amateur and sportsman classes. He met with gradually increasing success. In 1959 he won 22 races, the Richmond track championship, and the Virginia state sportsman title.

In 1961 he moved up to the NASCAR Grand National (now Nextel Cup) division. In the 1963 season, he finished 15th in points, and on December 1, 1963 he won a race at Jacksonville, Florida on the one mile dirt track at Speedway Park -- the first and to date only top level NASCAR event won by an African-American. He continued to be a competitive driver despite his low-budget operation through the rest of the 1960s.

He was forced to retire due to injuries from a racing accident at Talladega, Alabama in 1973. He achieved one win and 147 top ten finishes in 495 career Grand National starts.

The movie "Greased Lightning" starring Richard Pryor was a loose biography of Wendell Scott.

The Lost Trophy

Among all the trophies Wendell Scott won in his racing career, there is one that will forever be his legacy to the sport he loved.

It isn't much to look at, just some off-color wood with no plaque or varnish or glitzy, gimmicky metalwork. It pales in comparison to the gleaming, brightly polished trophies is sits among.

But that piece of wood, battered and beaten and sorry compared to the others, is the symbol of Scott's greatest day as a racing driver. It was Dec. 1, 1963, the day he won a NASCAR Grand National event in Jacksonville, Fla. Scott remains to this day the only black driver to have won a Grand National (now Nextel Cup) Series event in NASCAR's 58-year history.

During the 42 years since Scott earned his victory -- which, given the times and the area in which it occurred was not celebrated as victories always have been, in Victory Lane with a trophy queen and photographers -- no black driver has even been close to accomplishing the same feat.

Randy Bethea shocked the NASCAR world in 1973 by knocking Darrell Waltrip off the pole at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, but that was in a Late Model Sportsman event, not Grand National. Willy T. Ribbs, one of the finest road racers in the world, tried out a stock car at Daytona but never qualified for the 500.

That's pretty much been it, in terms of black names in Cup racing on the driving side since Scott won at Jacksonville in 1963. Bill Lester has driven in Craftsman Truck races since 2000.

Wendell and SonsScott, who died in 1990, was from Danville, Va., just inside the state line from North Carolina. It was an area rich in history for stock car racers, and also an area where it was not unheard of to run illegal whiskey from town to town in souped-up cars.

Scott was a taxi driver who graduated to running moonshine and eventually to racing stock cars. For any of those jobs, one had to be a master mechanic and a pretty nifty driver. In 1959, at the age of 38, Scott won the Virginia State Sportsman championship. Two years later, Scott was able to field a car for the Grand National Series. In nearly 500 Grand National races, he was in the top 10 an amazing 147 times.

Competing nose-to-nose with legends

Considering what Scott had to go through to compete in those Grand National races, it is even more amazing. The South in the early 1960s was still in the grips of Jim Crow, Bull Conner and the sort of segregation that we today know only through history books. Even on the day he won in Jacksonville, the pervasive attitude of Southern society at the time prevented him from receiving his due. "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."

Despite racing on a budget that made shoestrings seem expensive, Scott made it work. In 1966, he was a career-best sixth in the points. Through it all, he held his own and competed nose-to-nose with many of the legends whose achievements the present-day NASCAR is built upon.

His driving career ended for all intents and purposes in 1973, when he sustained three cracked ribs, a lacerated arm and a cracked pelvis in a massive 21-car pileup at Talladega Superspeedway. Ramo Stott's blown engine nine laps into the race that day caused the crash, and Scott's Mercury was credited with 55th place (out of 60 starters).

He died Dec. 22, 1990, after a long battle with spinal cancer, some 27 years and 21 days after the biggest victory of his career. He was later elected to the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame, located, ironically, in Talladega, Ala.

"I'm so glad we never gave up," said Scott's widow Mary. "When Ned Jarrett and all of those old drivers came to Scott's funeral, they told us he had the respect of all the drivers. I'd say all of those older guys learned to like him and respect him. They knew he was a genuine person and he stood for what he believed. He didn't give up."

Scott's son, Franklin, said that his father had earned his respect by competing with the best in the business and never giving an inch despite the fact that he was at a huge disadvantage in both finances and resources. As his father's crew chief, Franklin didn't get to see his dad win at Jacksonville, having stayed behind to play in a high school football game that weekend.

"I'll never forget it," Franklin Scott said. "I was playing football that weekend and I was home and got on the bus and a guy on the bus, a friend of mine who was a real joker, said, 'Your dad won a race today.' I said, 'Yeah, sure.' And he said, 'No, your old man won today.' I still didn't believe him."

Wendell had won the race, by two laps over Buck Baker, but NASCAR waved the checkered flag over Baker and awarded him the trophy. Hours later, NASCAR officials told him he really did win the race. "My dad went off then," Franklin Scott said. "He said, 'Give me my damn money.' Buck got the real trophy. The thing we got was junk. They gave us a trophy about a month later at Savannah. But it wasn't the real thing."

While it didn't make much sense to Franklin at the time, it did later. It was racism, pure and simple. "I guess it all was just a sign of the times." he said. "The opportunity for a black man to race just wasn't there. He overcame many hurdles and he never let it faze him to the point where it made him hostile. I don't know how he was able to do that. It was difficult for me when I would see a lot of the things I wouldn't understand why my daddy didn't put them in the wall. I thought he was afraid. He wasn't afraid ... he was thinking about the next race."

While there were many similar incidents over the years, one stands out to Franklin. In 1962, Jack Smith watched Wendell shatter his track record at Savannah, Ga., in a car Scott bought from Jarrett. Smith marched over to Scott's pit and told him that he would drive right through Scott's car that night in the race. Scott finished second to Jarrett that night, and though Smith didn't apologize to Scott, Joe Weatherly did. "Joe Weatherly came to our pits after the race," Franklin remembered. "He said, 'Wendell, I just came to apologize for the rest of the stupid SOBs.' "

According to Franklin Scott, Smith kept at it until one day Wendell had enough. "He [Smith] had wrecked us up at Winston-Salem and my daddy had had it with him," Franklin recalled. "On the pace lap he pulled up beside Daddy and started pointing his finger at him. We didn't know it but Daddy had his gun with him and he pulled it out and pointed the gun back. We never had trouble with Jack again."

It is hard to imagine something like that happening today. Because of men like Wendell Scott and Randy Bethea, black drivers are getting a chance to prove themselves in the arena of competition. NASCAR and corporate America have awakened to the fact that there are more Wendell Scotts out there, and they are bound and determined to find them.

The Records
Inside the Numbers
Wendell Scott's Career Stats
Year Races W T5 T10
1961 23 0 0 5
1962 41 0 4 19
1963 47 0 1 15
1964 56 1 8 25
1965 52 0 4 21
1966 45 0 3 17
1967 45 0 0 11
1968 48 0 0 10
1969 51 0 0 11
1970 41 0 0 9
1971 37 0 0 4
1972 6 0 0 0
1973 3 0 0 0
Totals 495 1 20 147

Wendell Oliver Scott

1 Grand National Win
1 Pole Award

Born: August 29, 1921
Died: December 23, 1990
Wife: Mary
Children: Wendell Jr., Frank, Ann, Deborah, Kay, Sybil, Michael
Hometown: Danville, Virginia

Other Trivia:
Life Depicted in the Hollywood Movie, "Greased Lightning", 1977
Owner of Scott's Garage 1949 - 1990

  Win Summary
Race Win # Date Race Name Track
1 12/1/1963 (64 season) Jacksonville Jacksonville

Wendell Oliver Scott, born August 29, 1921 in the 'Crooktown' section of Danville, Virginia, was a remarkable man and accomplished many feats. Scott was the first, and remains the only, African-American to compete in and own a NASCAR team.
Wendell Scott began his career, as did many drivers of the era, off the track. He gained seat time driving a taxi in Danville as fast as it could go, and hauled moonshine whiskey at night. Scott accumulated 13 speeding tickets in his taxi, which caused him to lose his chauffeurs license. Hauling bootleg was exciting to him; he could buy liquor for 55 cents a pint and sell it for twice that amount, plus he had practice racing from the police and leaving them in a cloud of dust. He often bragged about how he could out run the police, for instance getting so far ahead and hiding in the shadows of the night until the police would come flying by. He was not always lucky though, and once was caught and placed on probation.
In 1949, a race promoter for the Danville Fairgrounds, in a quest to increase attendance for the track, was seeking an African-American to race. He went to the Danville police station to obtain a name, where the police promptly referred him to Wendell Scott. The promoter made Scott an offer, and he agreed with much enthusiasm. Scott used to watch the races with a friend and would often say, if given the chance, he would race.

Scott raced in the modified and sportsman division early in his career on dirt tracks in places such as Staunton, Lynchburg, Waynesboro, Roanoke, Zion's Crossroads, Ruckersville, and Natural Bridge in Virginia, and Hagerstown in Maryland. Scott also raced on the sands of Daytona in the 1950's. In this division, Scott won a total of 128 races. He was the Virginia State Champion in 1959, and the Southside Speedway Champion in that same year.
In 1961, Scott, along with his wife Mary, decided to make the move to the highest level of racing, NASCAR Grand National Division (now known as Winston Cup). He had to make the transition from dirt track to pavement, racing against such drivers as Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Earl Brooks, Glen Wood, and Lee and Richard Petty. He also faced the challenge of going into many different tracks in the deep South at a time when segregation and racism were strong and brutal. Scott would confront Daytona 9169many obstacles during his career in racing, often being hit on the track deliberately by other drivers, denied expense money, and turned away from tracks all because of the color of his skin. He loved racing, however, and took the bad with the good.
In 1963 NASCAR ran a split season and in December of that year, which started the 1964 season, Scott made automotive racing history. At Speedway Park in Jackson, Florida, in a 100-mile feature race, Wendell Scott finished the race first in what should have been the greatest day of his life. However, it turned out to be one of the worst when Scott was denied the win to Buck Baker. Scott and his team protested the call and after three hours of consultation a NASCAR official declared Scott as the winner. They labeled the incident as a scoring error, marking him a lap down. Scott actually ran 202 laps in the 200-lap event. It was later said that NASCAR ruled the finish out of fear of what might happen if Scott were to pull into victory lane in front of a crowd of white spectators. Scott said that he never would have kissed the beauty queen, but only shook her hand. Scott also noted that every time he passed Baker he would wave at him. This incident troubled Scott for the rest of his life. He wanted to hear his name and car number being announced over the speaker in victory lane. He did receive the winner's purse but never got the trophy for his driving performance.
Scott continued to race until a near death car crash in 1973 at Talladega Speedway in Alabama forced him to retire. He didn't have factory backing, but he did have spirit and his family: wife Mary, sons Wendell Jr., Franklin, and Michael, and daughters Willie Ann, Deborah, Cheryl, and Sybil.




GREASED LIGHTNING - Warner Books, 1977
GREASED LIGHTNING - Sphere Books (UK) 1977
GREASED LIGHTNING (Film) - Warner Bros. 1977





GREASED LIGHTNING: Review by Nick Martin & Marsha Porter
         Video Movie Guide 2000
, Ballentine Books

***   Greased Lightning is a funny and exciting film. Richard Pryor is a knockout in the lead role, and the film is a real audience pleaser. Because the story is true, it carries a punch even Rocky couldn't match. Wendell Scott's story is more dramatic. Scott was the first black man to win a NASCAR Grand National stock car race.

DIRECTOR: Michael Schultz.
CAST: Richard Pryor, Pam Grier, Beau Bridges, Cleavon Little, Richie Havens.
(1977, Rated PG, Approx 96 Min., Color.)


Wendell, the Man.

Tucked away in a corner of Mary Scott’s trophy case in her Danville, Va., home is a pathetic excuse of a trophy. It’s off-brown, hardly more than a stick of wood covered with a little varnish. There’s no brass nameplate, nothing to reveal its history, its origin.

On a shelf filled with dazzling gold trophies and beautiful silver bowls, this bland memento is sorely out of place. Most people probably would have thrown it on the trash heap years ago, but in the Scott household, it will never be moved. This trophy is the centerpiece of Wendell Scott’s stock car racing career. It was the paltry reward for his only big-time win, and for Scott’s family it is emblematic of a black man’s struggle in a white man’s sport.

More than anything else, Wendell Scott was a man of courage and conviction, with a good sense of humor mixed in. At a time when blacks were just making inroads into baseball in the metropolitan centers of our country, Scott was trying to do the same in the world of Southern stock car racing. Some say he succeeded, others say he failed. One thing is certain - he made an indelible mark.

By the time he left the sport in 1973, after a horrendous crash at Talladega, Ala., that almost crippled him physically and left him paralyzed financially, Scott had won the admiration and respect of fans and fellow competitors.

"I’m so glad we never gave up," said Scott’s widow, Mary. "When Ned (Jarrett) and all of those old drivers came to Scott’s funeral, they told us he had the respect of all the drivers. I’d say all of those older guys learned to like him and respect him. They knew he was a genuine person and he stood for what he believed. He didn’t give up."

He had every reason to, though. It probably would have been much simpler for Scott to walk away from racing and return to his Danville garage as a full-time mechanic. That would have been the easy way out.

Scott never made a lot of money in the sport, just a tad over $180,000 in almost 500 NASCAR Grand National races. Early in his career, he was looked down upon by fellow drivers and was forced to bear the indignities of blatant racism. When he finally did win - he couldn’t enjoy the excitement of seeing the checkered flag wave over his car or the roar of the crowd.

"Scott, the only Negro driver on the Late Model Stock Car racing circuit, drove a 1962 Chevrolet. The veteran of 12 years of racing was two laps ahead of the field at the finish, but due to a scoring error, was thought to be in third place," reported a wire service the day after the race. "Buck Baker of Charlotte, N.C. was flagged as the winner in a 1963 Pontiac."

Scoring error? Scott never thought so. But he endured that episode, as he endured the many other injustices of the time and he did so with great pride, head held high. The two were inexorably intertwined in his life. He never compromised the two. He raced hard and he raised six children as well as any man ever could. But racing was an undeniably large part of their young lives. It was more than a family livelihood, it was a source of fun, a source of learning and a source of love for a family that thrived on togetherness, be it at the race track or in the living room.

On Dec. 22, 1990, Wendell Scott died, finally giving way to the ravages of spinal cancer. Yet, his spirit and memory lives on in the hearts and memories of family, fans and friends.

The Wife.

"Scott." Never "Wendell." That’s how Mary Scott refers he husband and always has, ever since she met him in 1940. It is, she says, her little pet name for the man she stood beside for more than 46 years.

Scott. It softly rolls from her mouth with waves of love and respect. Scott. When she speaks of him and their years together, her eyes sparkle. Sometimes they get a little moist with memories.

When Mary met Wendell Scott he was driving a taxicab in Danville. Little did she know then what a large role driving and cars would play in their future together. They went out a few times before Scott was called to service in World War II and shortly after his discharge in 1944 the two were married. He’d been a mechanic in the Army, and that should have been the second tip-off to the new bride that automobiles would dominate the coming years. He opened a garage on spring street in Danville, fixing cars during the day and running moonshine at night. Along about that time, Mary finally got the hint.

"I knew when I first met him he loved speed," Mary said in a recent interview. "He used to fly all the time. In those years they opened a raceway in Danville and somebody approached him about driving. They were trying to see which black men they could get involved, who could be a good driver.194 Daytona Program Picture

"They went to the police, now this is true, and wanted to find out who the fastest black man around was. Scott wasrunning moonshine back then, and the police were able to tell them he was the only one they could never catch."

So, in 1949 Mary and Wendell went stock car racing; they went racing off into uncharted waters for a black man and woman. And by gosh, could her man drive a race car. For a decade he terrorized the little dusty quarter-mile and three-eighths mile dirt tracks throughout southern Virginia and into the Carolinas. By 1959 he had really arrived, winning the Sportsman championship at Southside Speedway in Richmond and NASCAR’s Virginia State Sportsman Championship.

"I remember when he first decided to race" recalled Mary. "He used a"39 Ford his brother-in-law had. They made a race car out of it. That was before all these real strict rules. He had the passenger side tied with a chain or something. I was never really against him starting to race. I knew it was what he wanted. It was exciting and all of us were kind of crazy and didn’t think about the seriousness of it al

In 1961, Wendell decided it was time to make a move. He had almost 200 weekly-racing wins to his credit. There were bigger tracks to run and better drivers to challenge. So he left the Sportsman and Modified ranks and went big-time - Grand National racing. It was a move that affected the entire Scott family. The trips became marathons and as much as possible, whenever Wendell went, the family followed.

"When the children were smaller, we traveled at night when there was less traffic," said Mary. "we’d take the mattress out of the baby bed and put it in the backseat of the car and we’d pull the race car behind us. We didn’t even have a trailer to pull it on.

"A lot of our friends in Danville would tell us we were unusual people, the way we went to races. They said they didn’t know how we kept going, but we loved it. I stayed active in school activities with our kids. I made outfits for plays and was in the PTA. I was a ball of energy.

Mary eschewed the track duties undertaken by many drivers’ wives, saying, "I didn’t keep score for Scot but once or twice in his career." She was, though, a jack-of-all-trades at the track, handling any crisis that might come up. She was the team’s chef. Her culinary abilities were legend, as recorded by a newspaper article in 1970.

"On Friday nights before a Sunday race she begins cooking for the crew’s infield lunch - fried chicken, ham biscuits, potato salad, deviled eggs - and since cooking is one of her favorite endeavors, there is always plenty of others who might stop by."

"To stop on the highway to buy food for a big family, well, that was out of the question," said Mary. "Even if we had money it was always better if I cooked food and carried it along. We’ve gone on long northern trips where I carried a lot of canned foods and I always carried an electric coffeepot and a hot plate. It was a way to survive."

There were other reasons Mary packed food for those road trips, though. It wasn’t easy in the early 1960s for a black family to find a place to eat on the road.

"You have to remember back in the early days it wasn’t even convenient for us to stop and buy food unless we went to the back door," said Mary, who doesn’t talk about the problems the family ran into traveling across the country. Instead, she likes to think about it as one big learning experience. "In the early ‘60s, integration was just starting to balloon. It was an adjustment for the white man as well for us," she said. "We know how to survive. We never got into anything. We taught our children that people are people and treat everybody right."

And what about the way Wendell was treated by NASCAR officials?

"I’m sure if he was here today he’d tell you they gave him a harder time than others, but as far as we know they may have done the same thing to the other little guys who were struggling, too. Sometimes he thought whatever he had right with his car, they (NASCAR) would find fault with it. But he was so determined he didn’t let it get him down.

Through it all, Wendell and Mary took care of their six children - Wendell Jr., Franklin, Ann Deborah, Kay and Sybil. The parents made sure all had the childhood necessities. All had the opportunity to go to college.

"Sure, racing put a drain on us. He was operating on his own. Had he not been a mechanic and done all of his own work and made a living in his garage, we wouldn’t have survived," Mary said. "It never drained us to where we were out of what we needed to live, but there were times when we barely making it and when you do that, you soon learn to do without things. You try to put your priorities in perspective.

"There were times when Wendell couldn’t wait to go to Daytona in February to get his (points) bonus. He’d have to call and get it early for tuition for one of his children."

It’s been more than two years now since Mary lost her soul mate. Financially, she’s OK, not wealthy, but comfortable in the Danville house that was Wendell’s grandmother’s. She’s full of life, surrounded by children, grandchildren and memories of her Scott.

"I’m so grateful for all of the experiences we had. We wouldn’t take anything for them. I feel like we made history," said Mary. "Somebody asked me after Scott died what I was going to do. I said I was going to stay right where Scott left me until the Lord came to get me to be with him."

The Son.

As a youngster, Franklin Scott’s first love was racing. That’s what he wanted to do more than anything else in the world. Sure, he played the normal sports other kids were playing in Danville in the early 1960s, but he didn’t want to be a baseball player when he grew up. He wanted to drive stock cars.

His father made sure there was a backup plan, though. Franklin went to college, became a teacher and a coach. Some 25 miles west of the little shop where his father turned out race cars, he has fashioned one of the most successful high school basketball programs in Virginia. His Laurel Park Lancers are perennial state championship contenders. Soon in the next couple of years or so, Franklin will chalk up his 500the win.

That’s all fine, but as he settles into those middle-age years, with one son in college and another his bona fide court star at Laurel Park, he knows it could have been much different.

"I’m doing the second thing I wanted to do in life," said Frank. "The first thing was to be a racer. That was my dream. Me and Dale Earnhardt used to play together as kids at the tracks. His father drove a modified and my father drove a modified. A lot of the older drivers, their sons are driving now..."

Franklin almost became a driver, though. His dad had a car just about ready for him to drive once, but it never worked out. Franklin was an integral part of the team, though, from the time he was old enough to go to the races until his father finally closed up shop in the early 1970s. Regardless of what else was going on in his life, Wendell’s youngest son seldom missed the chance to be at his dad’s side.

"I grew up in racing. We traveled as a family a lot and everybody had a role to play," Franklin recalled. "I was the crew chief. I was entrusted with things that related to the safety of the car. I was the one who changed the right-front tire on the car. I would always be there. I would commute when I was in college and after I had starting teaching."

Ironically, Franklin wasn’t around to see his dad get that lone Grand National win at Jacksonville in 1963, even though he witnessed the trophy presentation a month or so later. Frank had to stay home for a high school football game that weekend early in December. He was riding a city bus back to his Danville home when he got the word of the win.

"I’ll never forget it. I was playing football that weekend and I was home and got on the bus and a guy on the bus, a friend of mine who was a real joker, said, "Your dad won a race today." I said yeah, sure." And he said, "No, your old man won today." I still didn’t believe him."

It was true. Wendell had won a race, but it took a while to convince a lot of people - like the NASCAR officials. In a story that is legend today, Wendell was awarded the win well after the checkered flag had fallen on Buck Baker, well after Baker had enjoyed the celebration and fanfare, well after Baker had left the dusty half-mile track with trophy in hand.

"Dad had won the race and he knew it. They just wouldn’t drop the checkered flag. They gave it to Buck Baker and kept Daddy there all that time. Then they came out and said, "Wendell, you did win."

"My dad went off then. He said, "Give me my damn money." Buck got the real trophy. The thing we got was junk. They gave us a trophy about a month later at Savannah. But it wasn’t the real thing."

It was hard for Frank to understand what happened to his dad that day in Jacksonville. Today, he calls it "a sign of theWendell 34 and Roy Tyner 9 times." Then he could only call it racism and he still doesn’t understand how his dad endured.

"I guess it all was just a sign of the times. The opportunity for a black man to race just wasn’t there. He overcame many hurdles and he never let it faze him to the point where it made him hostile. I don’t know how he was able to do that.

"It was difficult for me when I would see a lot of the things I wouldn’t understand why my daddy didn’t put them in the wall. I thought he was afraid. He wasn’t afraid... he was thinking about the next race."

Franklin’s memory is littered with on-track incidents he believes were race related. There are some that stand out more than others. At Martinsville, Va., one spring, Franklin said, Bobby Allison spun Wendell several times, but his dad never retaliated - during the race.

"I even put up the on the pit board for him to spin Bobby, but he didn’t do anything. When he came into the pits after the race, he got out of the car, walked over to Bobby’s pits and told him if he ever did that to him again, he’d whip his butt."

Most incidents were isolated, Franklin said, but it seemed two drivers, Neil Castles and Jack Smith, carried a continual grudge against his dad. Once in Savannah in 1962, Frank recalled, his dad had just set a track record in time trial when an irate Smith approached Wendell. Remembering the incident, Franklin said, "Jack got mad that night, We had just bought a ’62 Chevy from Ned Jarrett and we were fast. Daddy shattered the record and Jack was third fastest. After the drivers meeting, Jack told my father he had five race cars and when the flag dropped he would run through his old Chevrolet."

It turned out, though, that the only driver who could keep up with Wendell that day was Jarrett, who eventually won the race. When the dust settled, Wendell got an apology, but not from Smith.

"Joe Weatherly came to our pits after the race and he said, "Wendell, I just came to apologize for the rest of the stupid sons of bitches."

There were other run-ins with Smith and finally the elder Scott decided it was time to settle things once and for all.

"He (Smith) had wrecked us up at Winston-Salem (N.C.) and my daddy had had it with him," said Franklin. "On the pace lap he pulled up beside Daddy and started pointing his finger at him. We didn’t know it but Daddy had his gun with him and he pulled it out and pointed the gun back. We never had trouble with Jack again"

Once, Franklin remembers, in 1964, a promoter in Atlanta called and told Wendell to stay home because the Klan had said they’d make problems if he showed up at the track.

"We were working like mad on the car in the shop and Daddy got off the phone with that guy from Atlanta, I asked him what he was going to do. He said, "We’re loading this damned car up and we’re going to Atlanta."

The records show that Scott did not go to that race, but for every bad memory Franklin’s got a good one. There were other teams fighting to stay alive on the circuit and they all fell in together like a band of Gypsies. Color wasn’t an issue here. Money was and these guys didn’t have much.

"There were a lot of guys out there struggling just like us... Elmo Langley and Henley Gray and Jabe Thomas. We kept each other going. I mean, they’d have a partial pit crew and we’d pit three or four cars between us all."

The stars of the time - Richard Petty, Joe Weatherly, and Fireball Roberts - didn’t turn their backs totally on Scott. There were cheap, but outdated parts available occasionally from the factory teams. There were tires given when no one was looking. And there were a lot of pats on the back.

"A guy would loan you a tool or a part. I remember Tiny Lund one time in Jacksonville came over and told me to come with him. He gave me four tires for us to qualify on. That’s the type of guy he was," said Franklin.

"I can remember talking to Richard (Petty) one time in California after a race at Riverside. He said, "Franklin, when do you think y’all get home? I told him at the earliest Thursday evening. He told me he would be home that night, that he was on the way to the airport. Richard always felt bad about the way we had to struggle. Before I left he said to me, "You know what makes me mad, is I’ve got all these people working for me and all this money and I’m not running much damn faster than y’all."

This article first appeared in "American Racing Classics 1994/Vol3 "Used by permission of Street & Smith's Sports Group."  by Mike Smith


Parnelli Jones, Benny Parsons, & Wendell Scott




Torino Cobra

Original Team

# 98 Holman & Moody


Real documented Holman & Moody Ford Torino.  Driven by Parnelli Jones, Benny Parsons, and Wendell Scott.  Later used in the movie "Greased Lightning".  Restored in 1995-1999 to Benny Parsons championship vintage.

NASCAR Hall of Fame Worthy? Nine others were selected by the author, Full Throttle, here's the tenth:

And finally my tenth, and most controversial selection, Wendell Scott. Scott came out of Danville, Virginia to become, to date, the only African-American to win a NASCAR Grand National (now NEXTEL Cup) event in Jacksonville Fla., a one-mile dirt track. The year was 1963, and due to the color of his skin he wasn’t initially awarded the victory. Scott was two laps in front of the second place car driven by Buck Baker (also a legitimate contender for the first Hall class) in that event. NASCAR wouldn’t drop the checkered flag fearing a riot if a black man won, so Buck Baker took the checkered flag and enjoyed the celebration and the trophy. He finished that year in a second hand car bought from Ned Jarrett and placed 15th in points. In May of 1964, Scott was down on his luck and almost out of racing when Ned Jarrett set up a deal for Scott. He was able to obtain a Holman-Moody Ford that had been raced the year before in USAC  for a dollar. Driving that car, Scott finished 12 in points despite missing several races. Over the next five years, Scott consistently finished in the Top Ten in the point standings. He moved up to 11th in 1965, was a career-high 6th in 1966, 10th in 1967, and finished 9th in both 1968 and ‘69. His top year in winnings was 1969 when he won $47,451. Through all the under funded cars, pit crews made up of family members, and yes, a ton of blatant racism, Scott persevered until he was forced to leave NASCAR in 1973 following a crash at Talladega that almost left him crippled. He will forever be remembered for the role he played in the history of NASCAR. He is well deserving of being among the first elected to NASCAR’s Hall of Fame.


Some of the awards he received include the following:

* State of Florida Citation for Outstanding Achievements, 1965
* First Curtis Turner Memorial Award, 1971
* Special Olympics Service Award, 1974
* Schafer Brewing Company Achievement Award, 1975
* NASCAR Recognition of Achievement Award, 1975
* Bont Cultural Council Achievement Award, Greenville, SC, 1977
* Tobaccoland 100 Award for the finest NASCAR Driver via Major Henry Marsh, III, 1978
* Black Rose Community Service Award, 1980
* Muscular Dystrophy Association Award for Achievements, Roanoke, VA, 1981
* Danville, Virginia Citizenship Award, 1985
* Virginia Skyline Girl Scout Council, Inc., Award for Outstanding Contributions, 1985
* Proclamation of Atlanta, Georgia and Danville, Virginia, 1986
* Early Dirt Racers ' Driver of the Year Award, 1990
* Resolution from Virginia General Assembly, 'State Hero, 'January 1991
* Winston Cup R.J. Reynolds Pioneer Award, 1986
* Driver of the Year Award, 'Old Timers Racing Class', 1990
* Induction into Black Athletes Hall of Fame, 1977
* Induction into Jacksonville, Florida Hall of Fame, 1994
* Induction into Danville Register and Bee Sports Hall of Fame, 1996
* Induction into National Sports Hall of Fame, Detroit, 1997
* Induction into International Motorsport Hall of Fame, 1999
* Induction into Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, 2000
* Induction into National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame, 2000

Wendell Scott - Grand National / Winston Cup Statistics

Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn Miles
1961 39 23 of 52 0 0 5 0 4364 0 3,240 32 17.1 15.5 2217.3
1962 40 41 of 53 0 4 19 1 8542 0 7,133 22 16.2 12.3 4211.2
1963 41 47 of 55 0 1 15 0 9459 0 10,966 15 18.4 13.9 6165.4
1964 42 56 of 62 1 8 25 0 10752 27 16,494 12 17.4 12.9 6466.0
1965 43 52 of 55 0 4 21 0 9759 0 18,639 11 17.5 13.5 6450.7
1966 44 45 of 49 0 3 17 0 9793 0 23,052 6 22.0 14.2 6913.6
1967 45 45 of 49 0 0 11 0 9217 0 19,510 10 21.1 15.6 6657.2
1968 46 48 of 49 0 0 10 0 10231 0 20,497 9 22.2 15.7 7348.0
1969 47 51 of 54 0 0 11 0 11856 0 47,451 9 22.5 16.0 9169.3
1970 48 41 of 48 0 0 9 0 8276 0 28,518 14 22.0 17.6 6949.0
1971 49 37 of 48 0 0 4 0 7791 0 21,701 19 25.2 18.4 6825.4
1972 50 6 of 31 0 0 0 0 1763 0 5,830 40 29.7 21.0 1926.3
1973 51 3 of 28 0 0 0 0 632 0 3,530 61 45.0 27.0 914.5
13 years 495 1 20 147 1 102435 27 226,561   20.4 15.1 321 72213.9

Wendell Scott

By Julian Spivey Driver Insider Writer
Date: Feb 18, 2005

Not only is February the opening of NASCAR’s new season, it is also black history month. A month in which the lives and the struggle of a race and its leaders are celebrated. This is the time of year to also remember and pay tribute to one of NASCAR’s forgotten legends, Wendell Scott, the only African-American to win a NASCAR event in its more than fifty years of existence.

Wendell Scott’s struggle was like many African-Americans, a struggle to survive. Scott was a black man trying to make it in the white man’s sport of Southern stock car racing.

After serving his country during World War II, Wendell came back home to Danville, Virginia, where he began to work on cars during the day and run moonshine at night. Wendell was the best moonshine runner around, as he was never caught by the local police. In 1949, he and his wife, Mary, ventured into the world of stock car racing.

For a decade Wendell Scott dominated the small quarter-mile and three-eighths mile dirttracks throughout southern Virginia and the Carolinas. In 1959, Scott reached the pinnacle of his career winning the Sportsman championship at Southside Speedway in Richmond and NASCAR’s Virginia State Sportsman championship. In 1961 Scott made the leap from the short tracks of Virginia to the ranks of the NASCAR Grand National Series. The move washard on the family as the trips became longer and Mary and the six kids came along. In 1963 Wendell Scott became the first African-American to win a NASCAR event at Jacksonville.

In the early days after the late H. Clay Earles paved the Martinsville Speedway, Spider Stultz can be
found on the outside going into Turn 1.  Spider is driving the car that is running just outside the
#11 car being driven by the late Wendell Scott of Danville, Virginia.

However, due to the color of his skin he wasn’t initially awarded the victory. Wendell Scott was two laps in front of the second place car driven by Buck Baker in that event. NASCAR wouldn’t drop the checkered flag fearing a riot if a black man won, so Buck Baker took the checkered flag and enjoyed the celebration and the trophy. Wendell grew enraged at NASCAR’s decision, knowing he had been wrongfully robbed. Scott was awarded the victory a few days later and awarded a trophy a month later in Savannah. It wasn’t the real trophy though; it was hardly more than a stick of wood covered with varnish. No nameplate of nothing. Nothing to signify its significance. Wendell’s son, Franklin, remembers the trouble his father went through because of his race.

Franklin said that it seemed two drivers, Neil Castles and Jack Smith, really had it in for his father. Once in Savannah in 1962, Wendell had just set a track record in the time trial when Smith approached and told Scott that his five cars would run through Scott’s Chevrolet when the flag dropped. It turned out though that none of Smith’s cars could keep up with Scott’s car as he finished second in the race to Ned Jarrett. After the race Scott received an apology, but not from Smith. Franklin remembers, "Joe Weatherly came to our pit after the race and he said, "Wendell, I just came to apologize for the rest of those stupid sons of bitches." After a few run-ins with Smith, Scott decided that he’d had enough. Smith had wrecked Scott at Winston-Salem.

On the pace lap Smith pulled alongside Scott and started pointing at him. Scott whipped out a gun and pointed it at Smith. The Scott’s never had trouble with Jack Smith again. Despite some driver’s racism toward Scott, not all drivers felt the same way. Richard Petty, Joe Weatherly, and Fireball Roberts were among the stars that helped Scott out. One time in Jacksonville, Tiny Lund came over and gave Scott four tires to qualify on. Most stock car drivers respected Scott because he was a lot like them.

Wendell Scott was forced to leave NASCAR in 1973 following a crash at Talladega Superspeedway that almost left him crippled. Wendell Scott died of spinal cancer on December 22, 1990. He will forever be remembered for the role he played in the history of NASCAR.


Copyright © 2003 LegendsofNascar.com by Roland Via. All rights reserved.  Revised: 02/01/15 12:43:22 -0500. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works. FAIR USE NOTICE: This web page may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This page is operated under the assumption that this use on the Web constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Any text or images that you feel need to be removed please contact me. LegendsofNascar.com is not associated or affiliated with any racing club or organizations including that of NASCAR. It is constructed simply as an internet information source. Images and content made be used with email permission. Opinions and other content are not necessarily those of editors, sponsors.
Please visit official NASCAR information website at NASCAR.COM.

Back to Top