Wendell Scott of Danville, Virginia was the first black man to compete in the all-white sport of stock car racing in 1952. Despite the prejudices and hardships he faced, he eventually earned the respect and admiration of many. He was 31 years old when he entered his first NASCAR race at the now extinct, quarter-mile speedway in Richmond, Virginia. That day turned out to be one of Scott’s many bittersweet victories. As he hit the speedway, he was knocked and bumped out of the way by other drivers who felt he had no place competing in the same race with them, but despite their efforts Scott still won the race.
Scott was selected the Virginia State champion in 1959. In 1961, he entered the Grand National which is now the Winston Cup but did not win until 1963. He won the race by almost four laps, but was not declared the winner. Scott called for a recheck of the scoring and he was declared victorious. He won $1,150, but was not awarded a winner’s trophy until 2 months later. The whole incident put a damper on Scott’s victory, but his frustrations simply made him more determined. During Scott’s racing career, he achieved 128 career wins in all divisions and 506 Grand National starts. He accumulated 147 Top Ten starts and finished in the top ten point standings four times.
Scott received numerous awards and recognitions in his lifetime and even after his death in 1990 due to spinal cancer, and has also been nominated for several other prestigious awards. Scott is the recipient of the First Curtis Turner Memorial Achievement Award in 1971, the Special Olympics Service Award in 1974, the NASCAR Recognition of Achievement and honored by the Black American Racing Association in 1975, and the Tobaccoland 100 Award for the finest NASCAR Driver via Major Henry Marsh, III, in 1978. He received the Muscular Dystrophy Association Award for Achievements in Roanoke, Virginia in 1981. In 1990, he was awarded the Early Dirt Racers -Driver of the Year Award in 1990 and in 1991, received a resolution from the Virginia General Assembly. Among Scott’s greatest accomplishments in his career was being highlighted in Warner Brothers Pictures with a movie titled “Greased Lightning” in 1977 and nominated by Sportscasters to Racing Hall of Fame in 1990. Scott is also a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.