(Credit ISC Archives/Getty Images)
(b. 08/01/1932 – d. 08/14/1977)
Hometown: Danville, Virginia
Wendell Scott wasn’t the first African-American to compete in NASCAR’s premier division. But the Danville, Va. native, whose career on wheels began as a taxi driver, was the first of his race to become a full-time competitor in the series at a time where sponsors were few and drivers were measured by sheer determination.
Scott served three years in the U.S. Army during World War II where he honed his mechanical skills in the motor pool. Scott started racing in 1947. Scott experienced immediate success behind the wheel, he won over 100 races in the next decade at local area tracks.
Scott made his first start in NASCAR’s premier series March 4, 1961 at Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He started the event ninth but was sidelined due to oil pressure after the first 52 laps. Scott went on to make 23 starts that season posting five top-five finishes.
On Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla., Scott became the first African-American to win a NASCAR premiere series event. Scott won the 100-mile feature race on the ½ mile dirt track after starting from the 15th position. His triumph marked the high point for a man who made almost 500 career starts in NASCAR’s premier division.
Over the next 13 years, Scott would make 495 starts, tying him for 33rd on the all-time list. In his distinguished career, Scott accumulated 20 top-five finishes including eight of them in the same season he won his first career race, 1964. Scott also posted 147 top-10 finishes, more than 25% of the races he entered.
Scott’s career success earned him an induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999. NASCAR currently awards scholarships in tribute to Wendell Scott. Twelve Wendell Scott Scholarships are awarded per year to students from historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions.
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