Is Wendell Scott worthy of his NASCAR HOF induction?
Last week, NASCAR announced the five members of their 2015 Hall of Fame class. One of the new additions stirred up a lot of talk amongst the racing community and that was Wendell Scott. He was the first African American racer to win a race, and he did so in what happened to be a very hostile time in American history - 1964.
The owner and founder of NASCAR, Bill France Sr., helped Wendell on numerous occasions. Bill once told him, "You're a NASCAR member, and as of now you will always be treated as a NASCAR member." Although he had the friendship of NASCAR's most powerful figure, Wendell Scott had a very rough go of it when he attempted to race.
His induction was met mostly with rapturous applause, but there is also a contingent of people out there who have the audacity to speak out against the decision to induct such a 'non-deserving driver who only won a single race' (their words). My response to those people?
How dare you.
Wendell Scott deserves to be a member of NASCAR's HOF more than most drivers who have ever gotten behind the wheel. With him, it's not about the fact that he won a single race in 495 starts. It's about what he persevered through and fought against to do it. The fortitude he possessed and the unwavering desire to race superseded all the towering obstacles that stood in his way. His bravery while facing thousands of people who held an unmitigated, almost primeval hatred for him was astonishing.
What was all this courage for? Simply for the right to race.
I'd like to take every racer who ever won a NASCAR championship and put them in a line. Then, I'd face them with everything that Wendell Scott was forced to endure at the start of his career and let's see how many throw up their hands a walk away. This is not NASCAR trying to make up for the way America was in the 1960's. This is NASCAR recognizing a race car driver who, against all odds, won a race in the premier division of stock car racing.
What he went through just to compete was unbelievable and very unsettling. There were times he would drive hundreds of miles to race, only to be turned away at the gate because of the color of his skin. Humiliated, he'd then face a long drive back home and on one occasion, as he revealed, with tears in his eyes.
When he did somehow beat the insurmountable odds and actually win a race, they refused to give him the trophy and allow him access to victory lane. Wendell never got to hold the trophy that he rightfully earned. Never did he get the chance to hoist it above his head and be proud of his remarkable triumph.
Despite this, he continued to race undeterred for another decade before a career-ending crash at Talladega. He built his own cars, knowing that some of the other drivers would purposely wreck him and in an instant, destroy all his hard work. He willingly went to tracks knowing that people would spit on him, throw stuff him, shout racial slurs, some even wishing him dead, and meaning it too.
Wendell didn't care. He just wanted to race. When the NASCAR official who issued Scott his racing license told him these things, Wendell simply replied, "I can take it."
That's a real racer right there.
And those are the credentials of a NASCAR HOF'er.