DRIVE FOR DIVERSITY TEAMS PAY TRIBUTE TO WENDELL SCOTT Michael Cherry & Mike Gallegos honor Scott by driving No. 34 In 1963, Wendell Scott, driving the No. 34 Chevrolet Impala, defied the odds by becoming the first African-American to win a race...
DRIVE FOR DIVERSITY TEAMS PAY TRIBUTE TO WENDELL SCOTT
Michael Cherry & Mike Gallegos honor Scott by driving No. 34
In 1963, Wendell Scott, driving the No. 34 Chevrolet Impala, defied the odds by becoming the first African-American to win a race in NASCAR's elite division. In 2008, two Drive for Diversity drivers honor Scott's memory by driving car No. 34. Michael Cherry is piloting the No. 34 Chevrolet Impala for FDJ Motorsports in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. and Mike Gallegos drives the No. 34 RTD Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the NASCAR Camping World Series West.
For Gallegos, a fourth-year program participant, and team owner Rob Dixon, selecting the No. 34 for the newly formed RTD Motorsports team was an easy decision.
"There were a lot of reasons for us to use the No. 34 for our RTD Motorsports/Drive for Diversity entry," said team owner Rob Dixon. "With our involvement in the Drive for Diversity program, we wanted to pay tribute to Wendell Scott and his family."
Gallegos has developed a close relationship with Scott's son, Wendell Scott, Jr., who has served as the Drive for Diversity program's Driver Mentor and Technical Advisor since its inception in 2004.
"Mike is in Colorado and I'm in Virginia," said Scott, explaining that most of his mentorship of Gallegos is done via telephone. "I had no idea he was running the No. 34 until I arrived in Phoenix for the Camping World Series West race. I was floored when team owner Rob Dixon told me that the number was in honor of my father."
For Scott, Jr., the Drive for Diversity program is not just about honoring his father's legacy; the goal of the program is to diversify NASCAR and ensure that minorities and females are given a fair opportunity to succeed in the sport. His work with the Drive for Diversity program, which is NASCAR's leading on-track diversity initiative, has given Scott, Jr. the opportunity to work to develop up-and-coming minority drivers. It is an added bonus that the drivers and team owners view his father as a racing hero.
FDJ Motorsports team owner Frank Deiny also chose to honor Scott this season without Scott Jr.'s knowledge. His driver, first year program participant Michael Cherry, has long listed Wendell Scott as his hero and says his favorite movie is Greased Lightning, the 1977 film that depicts Scott's life. It was only natural for Deiny to have Cherry pilot the No. 34 as a tribute to Scott.
Deiny took the tribute one step further, painting Cherry's No. 34 the same powder blue that Scott drove to the win in 1963.
"He (Deiny) sent me a layout of the replica 1962 Chevy Impala... I was totally stunned," said Scott, Jr. "We had never even talked about him using the No. 34, let alone having the car be a replica. Now I have the opportunity to mentor this young man who is driving the car I served as crew chief for as a kid... it is an absolute joy."
In addition to the paint scheme on the car, Cherry wears a powder blue firesuit with the words 'In Loving Memory of Wendell Scott #34' embroidered on the sleeve.
"It's an honor to drive this powder blue No. 34 Impala," said Cherry. "Wendell Scott was a pioneer in this sport and there is no better way for us to pay tribute to him than with this car."
Both Cherry and Gallegos have high hopes for the 2008 season with the Drive for Diversity program, and both feel that driving the No. 34 gives them a little something extra.