Before Wendell Scott’s death in 1990, he had accurately predicted the future.
The former NASCAR driver, team owner and mechanic had a hunch that he would eventually receive his well-deserved recognition.
“He said, ‘I might not be here with all of you, but someday I’ll get my trophy,” said Frank Scott, Wendell’s son.
In 1963, Wendell Scott won a NASCAR race in Jacksonville, Florida. It was a historic victory as he became the first – and to this day only – black driver to win a race at the highest level of NASCAR.
Instead of the fanfare, photos and the White Track Trophy Queen kiss usually bestowed on winners, Scott left quietly after the crowds dissipated with his two-man squad and a check for $ 1,000.
Although he crossed the line first, Scott was not initially announced as the winner. It turns out there was a scoring error and popular white rider Buck Baker received the celebration earlier.
NASCAR only considered Scott the winner after he requested a review. Back then, dashboards were handwritten and “often subject to honest human error or outright cheating,” longtime motorsport reporter Al Pearce wrote in an Autoweek article. 2020.
Scott suspected the latter in his case: cheating motivated by racism. Accounts differ on the end of the race and whether the error was intentional, but NASCAR officially recognized Scott’s victory in its record books. In 2015, he was posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a sports pioneer. He is a member of at least six other Hall of Fame classes for his contributions to motorsport, but he never received his NASCAR trophy.
Do it right
Almost 60 years after his victory at Speedway Park, NASCAR presented the Scott family with a trophy for Wendell’s victory. The ceremony took place on Saturday night before the Cup Series regular season final at Daytona International Speedway. For NASCAR, it is both a correction and an acknowledgment of a wandering and often racist past.
“One of the very reasons these drivers buckle up every week is the appeal of a trophy,” said Brandon Thompson, NASCAR vice president for diversity and inclusion. “So when Frank says Wendell won this trophy, he absolutely did.”
For the family, who have long felt frustration with the sanctioning body’s failure to ceremoniously acknowledge Wendell’s victory, the moment is more than a relic.
“The trophy is a tangible artifact that he naturally won,” said Scott’s grandson Warrick Scott. “But it is something that would be a point of inspiration for countless people in the future.”
Frank and Warrick Scott grew up around racing and are involved in opening up the world of motorsport to many faces. They lead the Wendell Scott Foundation, a non-profit organization that honors Wendell’s legacy by providing mentorship, STEM engagement opportunities, and professional training to African American communities. They said they planned to build and maintain a museum in Danville, Va., Which is Wendell’s hometown, and fill it with his racing artifacts. The trophy will be a main feature.
While the trophy and ceremony are largely symbolic, Frank said he sees the recognition as an example of how NASCAR strives to welcome diversity and make amends. Last year, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from racing after Bubba Wallace, the only full-time black driver in the NASCAR National Series, called on the sanctioning body to do so. The drivers were in solidarity with Wallace after a noose was discovered in his garage in Talladega a few weeks later.
“It’s important because I see growth in NASCAR,” Frank said. “I see growth and diversity that wasn’t there before, and I think that will lay a really solid foundation to build on. “
The gear was custom built for the occasion by Jostens, a company that also provides the NASCAR Championship Trophy and Daytona 500 winner’s ring. Thompson said NASCAR worked with the Scott family to determine the timing of the presentation. and that Daytona felt like the right place for several reasons.
“This is the World Center of Racing,” said Thompson. “When you think of it as the regular season finale, when you think of the fact that just under 100 miles north of us is where this historic victory took place and when you consider the fact that Sunday will mark what would have been Wendell Scott’s 100th birthday.
The driver was born August 29, 1921 in Danville and died of spinal cancer at age 69 in his hometown.
“All the stars were aligned and we agreed with the Scott family that this would be the perfect place for that to happen,” said Thompson.
The family are also hoping to attend another historic occasion on Saturday. They developed a close relationship with Wallace, driver of Team 23XI Racing’s # 23 Toyota owned by Michael Jordan, and said they wanted Wallace to claim his first victory in the series this weekend. Warrick said he viewed Wallace as an “emerging legend himself”.
Wallace is the only black driver at the highest level of NASCAR. Willy T. Ribbs competed in three events in the 1986 series. Bill Lester competed in two Cup races 20 years later, and he competed in lower level Xfinity and Truck Series races, while Jesse Iwuji also competed at part-time races in the lower series of NASCAR.
Wallace donned a Wendell Scott paint scheme for NASCAR’s comeback race at Darlington this year.
“My dad would be very proud of what Bubba has accomplished,” Frank said. “He got calls all the time. Budding drivers would say they all want to start the Cup Series. My father used to say, ‘You have to cut your roots first.’ And I think Bubba did.
Wallace has won six races at the truck level, but never in Xfinity (six top five) and has yet to win a Cup event in his 137 races in the series. A Wallace victory on Saturday would be considered an upset victory. His average score is 19.8 this season with a team in his first year. However, more than a third of its laps conducted in 2021 were on a superspeedway. He became the first black rider to lead a lap in the Daytona 500 in February.
“The whole family stands behind him,” Frank said. “We believe in him. “
Even if Wallace does not take the checkered flag, Frank said the occasion will always be a joyful one for the Scott family.
“It’s very poetic that (the Wendell ceremony) is going on now because of social media and the way you can send a signal,” Warrick said. “Understandably, he didn’t get the recognition and the time, if you will, in Jacksonville that day. He didn’t get it, so it’s something that kind of puts a band-aid on it. It kind of helps heal.
“When I talk with groups of students or when I go to colleges or things of that nature, I don’t need to end my story with, ‘And we never got the trophy. “