Wendell Scott

28/8/1928 - 3/12/1990

Record updated 26-Aug-06

American stock car racing driver from Danville, Virginia. During most of his career he was the only African-American driver in NASCAR.

Wendell Scott
American stock car racing driver from Danville, Virginia. During most of his career he was the only African-American driver in NASCAR.

He started driving at 14 when his mother allowed him to drive the family car. He drove her to church and to the store every weekend.

He learned to be a mechanic in the Army during WW II and drove many jeeps for General Patton. Patton stated that he had never seen anybody that drove like Scott. General Patton wanted Scott to remain in the Army and his unit but Scott went home to marry his best friend Mary. They had been dating before he left to serve in the armed forces in Europe and the fight for world freedom.

After returning home he worked as a mechanic and became well known as the best moonshine runner in the Danville, Virginia. The Danville police Department relates the story of the day when they tried to catch him on in Fall Creek Run Road. They stated that the police cars had him block on this narrow road. Wendell just threw his car in reverse and drove past both police cars. Driving backward right into his garage. He quickly removed the engine from his car and hung it on a hook before the police arrived. Scott was working on the engine when the police arrived. They arrested him and took him to court. The judge asked both police offices, "How can a man outrun you and then be in the garage working on the engine of the car that you were chasing"? Both officers looked at each other and just shrugged their shoulders. The judge released Scott citing that he could not have taken the motor out of the car that fast.

Wendell finally settled down sticking to working as a mechanic and a taxi driver.

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 beat Buck Baker to win 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. However he was denied the opportunity to celebrate in Victory Circle. NASCAR officials said a scoring error was responsible for allowing Buck Baker 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."

He continued to be a competitive driver despite his low-budget operation through the rest of the 1960s.

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.

He was forced to retire due to injuries from a racing accident at Talladega, Alabama in 1973 when another car ran over his car almost killing him. He suffered broken legs.

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.

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