On 99th birthday, Wendell Scott legacy still looms large

Wendell Scott’s life in NASCAR was one of firsts.

Scott, who began racing in 1947 after three years of service in the U.S. Army motor pool, was the first Black driver to compete full time in the NASCAR Cup Series. He also was the first Black driver to win a race at NASCAR’s top level.

The implications of both are felt today — specifically on this day, Aug. 29, which was Scott’s birthday. He would have turned 99 this year.

On Dec. 1, 1963, at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida, Scott won the third race of the 1964 season, a 100-mile feature on the half-mile track after starting 15th. He led 27 laps and finished first in a field that included future Hall of Famers Buck Baker (second), Richard Petty (fifth), Ned Jarrett (seventh), Joe Weatherly (14th) and David Pearson (16th).

Scott, of course, is a fellow Hall of Famer. He was inducted as a member of the Class of 2015 for his contributions to the sport, earning his way as a trailblazing pioneer who would set the stage for others to follow his path.

Part of his lasting legacy is The Wendell Scott Foundation, which offers charitable support through educational programs and other activities in service to the Danville, Virginia, community and the surrounding region. On Saturday, NASCAR made a $10,000 donation to the Wendell Scott Foundation in the driver’s memory to celebrate and preserve his legacy.

Another part of Scott‘s legacy is the drivers who came after him — many of whom found their path as part of NASCAR‘s Drive for Diversity program.

The Drive for Diversity program was founded in 2004 as way for minority and women drivers to have an entry point into the sport — Wendell Scott Jr. would serve as a driving coach in the program‘s formative years. Rev Racing would later be formed by Max Siegel, who created the racing team to be a home for Drive for Diversity drivers at the grassroots level.

The pipeline has been successful, providing the racing foundation for current Cup Series regulars Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez (2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion) — as well as developing more than 50 pit crew members who are currently working in the sport’s national series. These include Brehanna Daniels and Breanna O‘Leary, who in 2019 became the first female graduates of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program to go over the wall in the Daytona 500.

Wallace, who is Black and drives the No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports, has been a leading voice within the sport on social justice issues. His No. 43 car was adorned with a Black Lives Matter paint scheme prior to the NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway earlier this year.

Martinsville also is significant historically in that it is near Danville, Virginia — Scott‘s hometown.

“It’s part of the pedestal you sign up for,” Wallace said after the race. ” … When you sign up to become something, you’re signing up to become something larger than yourself. Represent something more than yourself.”

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