Wendell Scott was a groundbreaker in NASCAR, a driver who changed the sport with his determination and talent. His legacy continues today as he serves as an inspiration for drivers in the sport's diversity program and has been the catalyst for a scholarship program and awards. Scott has already been inducted into other halls of fame affiliated with the sport. Here are five reasons he could be a NASCAR Hall of Famer.
Scott’s impact on NASCAR has extended well beyond his career. Not only has he earned induction into other halls of fame, but NASCAR has honored his breakthrough with scholarships in his honor. Twelve Wendell Scott Scholarships are awarded per year to students from historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions. In addition, his career serves as inspiration to a new generation of drivers competing through NASCAR's diversity program.
Making a mark
Scott was not the first African-American to compete in NASCAR's elite division, but he was the first to compete full time in the series. The Danville, Va., native began his career as a taxi driver, then moved into full-time competition at a time when sponsorship was hard to come by. In addition, Scott served three years in the US Army during World War II, where he honed his mechanical skills in the motor pool.
On a roll
Scott's accomplishments have been noted in recent years in a variety of programs and honors (including NASCAR's Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award, pictured here). After earning his first win, Scott spent the next 13 seasons in the sport. He would make 495 starts, tying him for 33rd on the all-time list. Scott closed his career with 20 top-five finishes, including eight in the same season he won his first career race, 1964. Scott also posted 147 top-10 finishes, giving him an average top-10 finish of better than 25 percent.
Scott, whose daughter Sybil is pictured posing with a car decaled in his honor, started racing in 1947 and found success quickly. He went on to win more than 100 races at local tracks over the next decade. His first NASCAR Cup start came on March 4, 1961, at Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds in Spartanburg, SC. He started the event ninth but was sidelined after the first 52 laps. Scott went on to make 23 starts that season, posting five top-five finishes.
Scott was determined to make his way into NASCAR and to gain the respect of his competitors. He broke through in a big way on Dec. 1, 1963, at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla. There he became the first African-American to win a NASCAR premier series event. Scott won the 100-mile feature race on the dirt track after starting from the 15th position. His triumph marked the high point of his career.