Wendell Scott, who broke NASCAR racial barriers, gets sport’s ultimate honor
MAY 21, 2014 4:29p ET
When Wendell Scott won his one and only race in NASCAR's top division on Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla., he wasn't given the trophy right away and wasn't allowed in Victory Lane for fear it might spark a riot if he were kissed -- even on the cheek -- by the white trophy girl.
Wednesday afternoon in Uptown Charlotte there was no such hesitation in celebrating another huge victory for Scott, who died in 1990. On this day, Scott was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, joining the 2015 class along with Bill Elliott, Fred Lorenzen, Joe Weatherly and Rex White. The five will be formally inducted Jan. 30, 2015.
The vote makes Scott the first African-American to be elected into the NASCAR Hall and to this day, he remains the only African-American to win a race in what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In a very real sense, the Danville, Va., native was NASCAR's Jackie Robinson.
Of the 30 individuals already inducted or awaiting induction into the NASCAR Hall, to some fans and voters alike, Scott was one of the more polarizing choices, given that his resume counts just the one victory and 20 top-five finishes in 495 starts.
On the other hand, what Scott accomplished was nothing short of remarkable. Racing in the 1960s in the deeply segregated South , long before NASCAR become a national sport, Scott was practically a one-man show. He prepped his own cars, drove his cars, was his own crew chief and much of the time his own pit crew. It was not unusual for Scott to pit mid-race, get out of his car and change all four of his tires himself, something unimaginable today.
Scott bought used cars and used parts from his fellow competitors and did as much as he could to stretch his limited resources enough to provide for his family.
Former Charlotte Motor Speedway President H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler said he remembered a race at CMS where Scott had to repair his own car during the middle of the event. "It was a little humiliating for everybody in the business when we saw that," said Wheeler. "He only one won race, but God, what he had to go through to get that far."
NASCAR President Mike Helton said Scott had come close before and his selection was merited.
"I think it was very significant statement," Helton said. "Not many people remember or probably will ever understand the challenges he went through to participate in the sport. ... His hurdles were taller and stronger and more significant."
Helton said Scott's election "is one that we should all embrace and will embrace and will be very proud of to talk about in January."
For Scott's daughter, Sybil, Wednesday was a day of triumph for her late father and what he accomplished. It was even more poignant because her mother is seriously ill.
"It was a great day, an awesome day," said Sybil Scott, who was very proactive in leading a social media campaign on her late father's behalf.
"I felt like it was his moment, and I felt like people making that decision probably felt that, too," said Scott. "... I just felt like it was Daddy's moment."
And then, "Thank God it happened."
Asked how her father would have reacted to the honor, Sybil said he would doubtless be please.
"He would be so happy," Scott said. "First of all, he'd be truly surprised. He'd be thanking people who supported him and the people who made the decision in the hall. Daddy was very grateful. He was a very humble person. A lot of people don't know it, but he was a very emotional man. ... He would want to share this moment."
Scott credited social media with raising awareness about her father's accomplishments. "I think it's had a great impact," she said. "Kudos to them (the fans) and I hope they're enjoying this moment also, because social media can have an impact and I do believe it reached far -- far and wide."