Wendell Scott The Nascar Pioneer Whose Legacy Is Now More Powerful Than Ever


Wendell Scott The Nascar Pioneer Whose Legacy Is Now More Powerful Than Ever

Wendell Scott kept a loaded pistol underneath his front seat. He took it out mid-race just the one time – and never again did that guy threaten to wreck him off a track.

Scott was a pioneering Nascar driver who remains the only African-American to win at the sport’s highest level, but he died in 1990 without ever receiving his official trophy, and at the time they said he finished third. It was a lie.

Jacksonville, Florida, 1 December 1963. Wendell’s grandson Warrick reels off the date and location in double time. A sharpened intensity flickers hot behind kind eyes as he does. Much of his 43 years have been spent campaigning for correction.

“It’s a weird dynamic when the only way you can stop somebody making an attempt on your life is to make them afraid of losing theirs,” Warrick says of Scott’s pistol strategy.

“But that’s how it was. The way people treated my grandfather was messed up.”

Nascar is a motorsport series born in the USA’s southern states. Some teams, races and fans have for a long time associated themselves with the Confederate flag – considered by many a symbol of slavery and racism.

Over the past month, Nascar has been radically changing its image. The Confederate flag has been banned. It has embraced the Black Lives Matter movement. It has added its voice to those condemning police brutality and systemic racism.

The process has not been straightforward. At a race in Talladega, Alabama, Nascar’s only current black driver was thought to have been the target of a hate crime. A noose was found in the garage area assigned to Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace Jr.

Nascar gave his team extra time before the race to make sure his car had not been tampered with. Outside, some people were flying the Confederate flag. On the track, drivers and teams rallied around Wallace in a powerful gesture of solidarity.

The noose found in Bubba Wallace's garage stall in Talladega
The noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall in Talladega

An FBI investigation found the noose, apparently in use as a handle on a roller door, had been in that particular garage – randomly assigned to Wallace on the day – since October 2019. The FBI closed its investigation. Amid claims of over-reaction, Nascar pointed out that at their 29 tracks and 1,684 garage stalls, only 11 featured a pull-down rope tied in a knot. And only one was fashioned in a noose.

But the racism that was believed to have happened to Wallace did happen to Scott. And in confronting the present, there is power in listening to the past. That is the message the Scott family has – and this is their story.

Short presentational grey line

If you didn’t know how to outpace the law, you wouldn’t last long running moonshine. Wendell Scott was a quick learner and nobody could catch him in a car.

Born in 1921, Scott’s background shares much with many of Nascar’s early icons. He rejected the idea of regular work in the town where he grew up – Danville, Virginia. He dropped out of school and became his own boss, working as a taxi driver. And like many Nascar legends, such as Junior Johnson, he made money from selling black-market whisky. He built, maintained and skilfully drove the modified rides that kept him one step ahead of the police.

Scott was a risk-taker determined to make his mark on the world of high thrills that had him sucked in for life by the time he was 30. He had everything you’d need to flourish in Nascar’s high-octane world and help raise it higher. It’s just that unlike men like Johnson – known as ‘The Last American Hero’ – his skin was the wrong colour.

Scott grew up with the Jim Crow laws that in America’s southern states denied black people equal rights with whites. His first taste of stock car racing came from the corner of a segregated stand in the late 1940s, having been through segregated education, having served as a soldier mechanic in America’s segregated army in World War Two.

Looking out onto the track, Scott would recognise some of the other local moonshine runners on the starting grid. He knew he could handle a car just as well as them. But what were the chances of him being allowed to actually compete?

Scott, pictured at home in Danville with Wendell Jr and Frank in 1963
Scott, pictured at home in Danville with sons Wendell Jr (centre) and Frank (left) in 1963

Danville was not a rich town. Nor was it a particularly progressive one. It had been the final capital of the Confederacy, the coalition that fought against the Union in America’s civil war and advocated for the right to uphold slavery. Cotton and tobacco were its employers.

At the Danville racetrack, there was a problem. Crowds were always lower than elsewhere on the ‘Dixie Circuit’ – the regional stock car racing competition of that time. So promoters settled on a strategy to increase the crowds – they would employ a black driver. Scott’s moonshining exploits meant he had a reputation.

“The police told them they ought to talk to that ‘darkie’ they’d been chasing over the back roads hauling liquor,” Scott would later explain to Associated Press. “That’s how I became a race car driver.”

Come May 1952, the scene was set for Scott to run his first race. It took place in his home town. Some members of the majority white crowd shouted insults, some threw objects. But Scott never thought about looking back. Soon he was competing in as many as five races a week across Virginia and beyond, and the wins began to come.

Wendell Scott HAMPTON, GA — 1973: Wendell Scott of Danville, VA, at Atlanta International Raceway during his final year of competition on the NASCAR Cup circuit. During his career, Scott started 495 Cup events, won once, and finished in the top 10 position 147 times. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)
Scott, pictured here in Atlanta during the 1973 season – his final year of competition

It did not earn him a lot of money. Scott was still running moonshine to make ends meet, even selling it sometimes to other drivers. But days away from the track were as often as possible all about racing. Fine tuning equipment, fashioning his own tools, building his own garage. Scott was a skilled mechanic and engineer who stretched every material resource beyond its limit and back into use again.

It was becoming clear that he was cut out for a grander scene than the local racetracks. Nascar was emerging as the larger, more ambitious player. Its elite level – the Grand National series – offered more money, bigger venues, bigger crowds and faster tracks. Again, though, Scott needed a way in.

He tried presenting himself to Nascar promoters at courses he could reach, towing his race car and asking to compete. In those times local officers had the power to issue the licences required. Several turned Scott down because they didn’t want black drivers in the sport, but all he needed was one to give him the go-ahead. He found him in Maurice Poston, a part-time postman in Richmond, Virginia. Scott got his licence in 1953.

The moment was hugely significant. But in contrast with Jackie Robinson’s entry into baseball as the first black player in 1949, or Charlie Sifford’s arrival on the PGA Tour in 1961, Scott’s landmark passed unannounced and has remained remarkably uncelebrated even to this day. Poston would tell his local paper years later: “I told him we’ve never had any black drivers and you’re going to be knocked around. He said: ‘I can take it.'”

Still, to really progress Scott needed a car that matched his abilities and ambition. He spent $2,000 and remortgaged his house to fund it. Money was always tight. After some races he would even send his kids out collecting glass bottles to cash in for their deposit. He would remortgage the family home seven times before the end of his career.

The gamble should have paid off. Scott topped the points standings for debutants in his first elite Nascar season, 1961. That was enough to win the Rookie of the Year trophy and cash prize, but instead it went to a driver who’d finished several places behind him and who – like everybody apart from Scott – was white.


Hard Driving, a biography of Scott written by Brian Donovan that features testimony from drivers, manufacturers and racing officials, leaves little doubt that the decision was based on race. Just like what would happen in Florida two years later.

In 1963, the Jacksonville race Scott won was initially awarded to a rival, with the ‘error’ later explained as having been caused by inaccurate scoring. According to Scott’s grandson Warrick, officials were worried about what would happen when Scott was presented to the white local beauty queen as the victor. He instead later received a wooden replica trophy with no markings, and paid his winnings when everyone had left.

At another race Scott’s tyres were slashed before getting to the starting grid. At another a firecracker was thrown at his son Wendell Jr, who was injured. He received death threats. In Birmingham, Alabama, he was discreetly advised to make a quick getaway because a violent mob was set to arrive. One track, in Darlington, South Carolina, would refuse to let him compete, every year.

At Darlington, races were started not with the traditional green flag but one celebrating the Confederacy. The track was eventually compelled by federal law to let Scott in after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but officials still found ways to prevent him from actually racing by inventing impossible last-minute technical inspections.

And yet by the mid-1960s Scott had carved out a position of respect and admiration among fans and the majority of his fellow drivers. His name was often met with cheers from the stands. His courage and continued determination to compete against the odds were plain for all to see. But some refused to see it. Some refused to even look. For Scott’s grandson Warrick, there was one major obstruction that held him back, and the reason behind that was clear.

“It was decided, in some behind-closed-doors discussion, that no – we will not allow you a sponsor,” Warrick says.

“We will not allow you to be a spokesperson for Shell, Ford, Kellogg’s, Pepsi or Chevrolet. And I won’t say those corporations didn’t want to do it. You can imagine someone there thinking: ‘Hey, it’s 1965! In a business sense this could work…’


“For Nascar, it was: ‘We will not supply you with the resources that will even remotely allow you to be competitive.’ My father always said: ‘Someone can kill your opportunity with just a gesture. They don’t even have to open their mouth.'”

Frank Scott, Warrick’s father, was one of three Scott children who formed a key part of the racing team along with his brother Wendell Jr and sister Deborah. She was just as skilled a mechanic but only allowed to watch races from the stands. The boys were trackside for the high points, and for the low points too. There was perhaps none lower than at Talladega, Alabama, in May 1973.

Arsenal F.C.

The guest of honour was George Wallace, governor of Alabama. Ten years previously, in June 1963, Wallace physically blocked the path of black students enrolling at the University of Alabama in one of the flashpoints of the Civil Rights struggle. Wallace was a long-time ally of Nascar’s founder, Bill France. The relationship helped build Talladega’s racetrack.

Scott had struggled over the years building up to this point. While rivals were able to take advantage of increased revenues coming into the sport, he didn’t have any backing whatsoever. He could only dream of the technological sophistication and resources the big teams could draw on. So he decided to go all in – just like when he stepped up to Grand National level. Win or wreck.

The car he bought was a Mercury. Again, the family home was remortgaged. Scott was in debt like never before but finally had the car he needed to compete. He flew off the start line at Talladega, hitting speeds of more than 180mph, previously out of reach.

“It felt like someone shot me out of a slingshot,” Scott told a documentary team from The Nashville Network (TNN) years later.

“Yeah, I was rolling, heading toward the front.”

Everything changed in an instant. In Scott’s version of events he was clipped from behind by another driver and it spun him out. His brand new Mercury veered out of control and into the infield. There was oil on the track and another racer then came sliding off and slammed into the side of Scott. The car was ruined. Scott was badly crushed, and he was covered in blood. Driver Larry Smith was one of the first to come over.

“Larry came to me, he thought I was dead,” said Scott.

“It was a tough roll. I didn’t know I was knocked out. When they tried to get me out I was hurting so bad. Broke my leg in seven places, tore my arm to pieces. I spent 32 days in hospital. It took me nine years to pay for that car.”

Scott was back at Talladega again three months later in August on crutches, watching from the stands. From there he witnessed another crash in which Smith – the driver who had sought to help him – was killed. It was the 11th fatality during the years of Scott’s Nascar career.

Once he was fit enough to do so, Scott did race again in that 1973 season. In October, in Charlotte, North Carolina, he started 38th, made it into the top 10 and fell back to finish 12th. At the time nobody knew it was the end, perhaps not even Scott. There was no retirement announcement, no final bow. He was not quite 52.

When Scott was visited by the TNN film crew, his old Mercury was out back, half-covered in the dry long grass beside the shell of an old yellow school bus.

It wasn’t the only car he was keeping hold of. Each had a story lovingly detailed across several old scrapbooks.

Showing his visitors around, they came to the old Mercury. Scott went over, pointing out the paint marks from where he’d been hit from behind. Stepping back to look again, he said: “That was the best car I ever drove. But I didn’t really get the chance to do my best with it.”

Short presentational grey line

Warrick was 13 when his grandfather died at the age of 69. He had been diagnosed with spinal cancer.

After Scott’s death, the street where he built his home was renamed in his honour. Keens Mill Road became Wendell Scott Drive. Warrick spent a considerable part of his childhood in that house.

“In a lot of ways Wendell Scott’s story kept getting sadder,” he says.

“He raced with guys who ended up being multimillionaires, many of which couldn’t hold a candle to him on the racetrack, while we struggled mightily in his final years. All his cars were sold to pay hospital bills.

“After he retired he returned home and it was regular life. He was a mechanic up until the last year of his life, when cancer made him sit all the way down.”

Warrick believes Nascar should go further in recognising what Scott achieved “not just as a driver but in terms of his overall impact to the sport”.

Wendell Scott The Nascar Pioneer Whose Legacy Is Now More Powerful Than Ever


  1. I like what you guys are up also. Such intelligent work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my web site 🙂

  2. I am commonly to blogging and i truly appreciate your web content. The write-up has actually peaks my passion. I am mosting likely to bookmark your website and also keep checking for new info.

  3. It is really a nice and helpful piece of information. I am glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  5. I have observed that service fees for on-line degree gurus tend to be a terrific value. For example a full 4-year college Degree in Communication from The University of Phoenix Online consists of 60 credits with $515/credit or $30,900. Also American Intercontinental University Online provides a Bachelors of Business Administration with a complete program element of 180 units and a tariff of $30,560. Online learning has made taking your certification far more easy because you may earn your own degree in the comfort of your abode and when you finish from office. Thanks for all tips I have learned through the site.

  6. I as well as my buddies ended up reading the excellent guides located on your web site and then suddenly I got a terrible suspicion I never expressed respect to the site owner for them. Those young men came for this reason warmed to read all of them and now have definitely been using these things. Appreciation for being quite considerate as well as for opting for such tremendous topics millions of individuals are really needing to understand about. My very own honest apologies for not expressing appreciation to sooner.

  7. We are Daylight Studio, a boutique photography studio in East London available for hire. We are a creative natural light studio space with decorated French walls, lots of props and furniture and massive windows for great natural light. He have a unique selection of chairs, fabric backgrounds and a sofa for your next natural light photography project. The studio is great for fashion, portrait and commercial photography and if natural light photography studio is not your thing we have a lot of lighting equipment available for you as well and that includes studio strobe lights with various modifiers and LED constant lights for video production. We also have facilities for e-commerce photography. Please see the studio’s gallery here.

  8. One more thing I would like to state is that instead of trying to fit all your online degree training on days and nights that you conclude work (since most people are tired when they go back home), try to obtain most of your sessions on the week-ends and only a few courses on weekdays, even if it means a little time off your saturday and sunday. This is beneficial because on the week-ends, you will be a lot more rested in addition to concentrated with school work. Many thanks for the different tips I have acquired from your weblog.

  9. You could certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  10. I have learned many important things via your post. I would also like to convey that there may be a situation in which you will get a loan and do not need a co-signer such as a Government Student Support Loan. But when you are getting that loan through a standard financier then you need to be prepared to have a co-signer ready to enable you to. The lenders will certainly base any decision using a few components but the most significant will be your credit worthiness. There are some loan providers that will furthermore look at your work history and choose based on this but in most cases it will depend on your ranking.

  11. A person essentially help to make critically articles I might state. That is the very first time I frequented your website page and to this point? I amazed with the analysis you made to make this particular submit extraordinary. Fantastic job!

  12. It is my belief that mesothelioma is actually the most dangerous cancer. It contains unusual properties. The more I actually look at it the more I am sure it does not respond like a real solid tissue cancer. If perhaps mesothelioma is usually a rogue virus-like infection, hence there is the prospects for developing a vaccine in addition to offering vaccination for asbestos exposed people who are open to high risk associated with developing long run asbestos associated malignancies. Thanks for sharing your ideas about this important health issue.

  13. Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is important and everything. But think of if you added some great visuals or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and videos, this site could definitely be one of the greatest in its field. Terrific blog!

  14. Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the web the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people think about worries that they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  15. Get help to stop drinking. Helping women quit drinking alcohol. Coach Mary Wagstaff. Feel better, mind, body and soul. Mindfulness based coaching and alcohol recovery. Yoga for recovery.

  16. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  17. Perfectly composed content material, thanks for selective information. “You can do very little with faith, but you can do nothing without it.” by Samuel Butler.

  18. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such wonderful information being shared freely out there.

  19. Great ¡V I should definitely pronounce, impressed with your website. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs and related info ended up being truly easy to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Reasonably unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or anything, web site theme . a tones way for your customer to communicate. Excellent task..

  20. hello there and thank you for your info – I’ve certainly picked up anything new from right here. I did however expertise a few technical issues using this web site, as I experienced to reload the website many times previous to I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your web hosting is OK? Not that I’m complaining, but slow loading instances times will often affect your placement in google and could damage your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Well I’m adding this RSS to my email and can look out for a lot more of your respective exciting content. Ensure that you update this again soon..

  21. I and my pals ended up checking the nice advice located on the blog then unexpectedly got an awful suspicion I never expressed respect to the web site owner for those secrets. Those men were absolutely warmed to study them and now have in truth been making the most of them. We appreciate you really being very accommodating and for selecting certain fabulous subject matter most people are really desirous to discover. My sincere regret for not expressing appreciation to you sooner.

  22. The when I read a blog, Lets hope that this doesnt disappoint me just as much as that one. I am talking about, I know it was my option to read, but I actually thought youd have some thing intriguing to talk about. All I hear is really a couple of whining about something that you could fix should you werent too busy in search of attention.

  23. I am curious to find out what blog platform you have been utilizing? I’m experiencing some small security issues with my latest website and I would like to find something more secure. Do you have any suggestions?

  24. Hey! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest writing a blog post or vice-versa? My blog addresses a lot of the same topics as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other. If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Excellent blog by the way!

  25. lpc [url=https://onlinecasinosww.com/#]real vegas casino games free[/url] rme [url=https://onlinecasinosww.com/#]online casino real money[/url]xet [url=https://onlinecasinosww.com/#]888 casino online[/url]

  26. Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently fast.

  27. I’d should verify with you here. Which isn’t something I normally do! I get pleasure from reading a put up that can make individuals think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

  28. Hi, Neat post. There is a problem along with your website in internet explorer, could test this… IE still is the marketplace leader and a big component to people will leave out your great writing due to this problem.

  29. It¡¦s in reality a nice and useful piece of information. I am satisfied that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  30. There are some fascinating cut-off dates on this article but I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There may be some validity however I’ll take maintain opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we would like more! Added to FeedBurner as properly

  31. I precisely had to appreciate you once more. I’m not certain the things that I could possibly have taken care of without the type of hints shared by you over that area of interest. It seemed to be a traumatic dilemma in my position, but understanding a new expert avenue you solved that made me to leap over fulfillment. I am grateful for your advice and as well , sincerely hope you recognize what an amazing job you happen to be providing training people all through a web site. I am certain you have never encountered all of us.

  32. After research study a few of the post on your web site currently, as well as I genuinely like your means of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark web site checklist and also will be examining back soon. Pls look into my internet site as well and also let me understand what you assume.

  33. My partner and I stumbled over here coming from a different web page and thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to going over your web page again.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here