Wendell Scott from his son's eyes

Martinsville, VA---Wendell Oliver Scott not only made a name for himself on the racetrack, but he also left his mark in the hearts of his family. Scott will be inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame...

Martinsville, VA---Wendell Oliver Scott not only made a name for himself on the racetrack, but he also left his mark in the hearts of his family. Scott will be inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame Saturday night. Scott, who died in 1990, began racing at the Danville Fairgrounds Speedway winning 128 races at various tracks including a track championship at Southside Speedway and was Virginia State Sportsman champion in 1959. He moved up to NASCAR's Grand National Circuit, later renamed the Winston Cup Series, in 1961. On December 1, 1963 he won his only Grand National race, a 100-mile event on a half-mile track in Jacksonville, Florida. He is the only African-American driver to ever win a Winston Cup race. He finished sixth in the 1966 Grand National points standings and was ninth in 1968 and 1969 and 10th in 1967. The Danville, Va., native never had it easy in racing, but his son Frank Scott said Wendell became successful because the word determination describes his father. "He didn't believe in can't and never. He wouldn't allow you to use those words," Scott said of his father. Scott said that Wendell Scott had steely gray eyes that would change color with his mood. "They were green, blue, gray. You know mood rings, well he had mood eyes." Scott said he could remember sitting at the dinner table and somebody said, "I can't do that. Then his (Wendell Scott) eyes started changing and he said 'get up and come back when your attitude is right.'" Scott said his mother, Mary, two brothers and four sisters are proud that the NMPA chose Scott for induction and most of them will attend the ceremonies on Saturday evening. "We are very grateful as a family that they chose to recognize him this way and we look forward to it," he said. "Racing in the Scott family was a family affair and he had a lot of determination and refused to quit." He added that because the honor came from the racing media it was even more special. "The press has a bird's eye view of a sporting event and they see a person' s efforts and accomplishments," he said. "They can appreciate by comparison the effort that is being made." The respect Scott holds for his father is obvious as he talks fondly of the time he spent with Wendell. Scott started working on his father's pit crew when he was just 14-years-old at Daytona. "But I was working on the race cars my whole life. I can remember from seven years old on up doing something and having a part," said the teacher and basketball coach at Laurel Park High School just about 8 miles from Martinsville Speedway. "Everyone in the family had a job to do and had responsibility." Scott called his father the hardest working man he has ever known. "When I look back, I don't know when my father slept because he was in the garage all the time working on the race cars," he said. "He would go in and get two or three hours sleep and go back out to the garage." "He was dedicated to his profession. It was something he loved and he didn' t consider it a chore. With the financial restraints he was under, there were so many things he had to do himself," Scott said of his father adding that friends would volunteer to help work on the car when they could. Scott also said his father was very unselfish. He remembers he and his father going to the Charlotte Fairgrounds once when his engine blew forcing him out of the race. "He didn't place in the money and the promoter didn't give him any money. He only had two dollars in his pocket," he said. Scott said Wendell stopped, after leaving the track, and put $1.80 of gas in their truck and bought his son a cold box sandwich from a machine with his last twenty cents. "When I opened the sandwich up and tried to give him some he wouldn't take part of it. I know he had to be hungrier than I was. He had worked on the car all day and drove in the race," Scott said adding they had not eaten since breakfast. "I can remember him rubbing my stomach coming down the road and talking to me. There are so many stories of his determination and the things I saw him do. He was amazing." Frank Scott said, as a young man, he wanted to be a race driver. The first time he drove a car around a track he was 13-years-old in Hillsboro, NC. He said he made some laps and then decided to try to go faster resulting in a spin out. While he was sitting sideways on the track, legendary driver Junior Johnson slid up beside of him and threw mud all in his car. "When I got the car started again and came on around the track, I couldn't wait to get back to the pit area and park that car and get out of it," he said, but when he came back around he saw his father and Wendell wouldn't let him come in. "Later on he told me the reason he did that. He told me if I had come in I would have a fear of it." Scott's most memorable time at Martinsville Speedway, with his father, came in the late 1960s when Scott said he drove home after getting out of class early from North Carolina Central University to help the team on race weekend. When he arrived, everyone was waving him into the infield. "I was like 'what's going on.' I didn't know if my father got hurt or what," he said. Scott signed in and went to the infield and found out that Wendell had blown the engine in his race car. Scott said the car he drove to school was a 1966 Ford with a 427 engine that had a Mickey Thompson stroking kit it in and two four barrels. He discovered his father wanted his engine. "When I got there, my father already had the engine out of the race car. I drove in the infield and we pulled the engine out of my car, that I had driven from school, and put it in the race car. He ran good that Sunday and had a great finish. All we had to do was change the intake to a single four-barrel intake because two four barrels wasn't allowed." After the race the family had to pull the engine out of the race car and put it back in his street car so he could drive back to school. "I remember leaving Martinsville Speedway about 10 or 11 that night after using a car's headlight to put the engine back in my car," he said. "When you are going through it you don't realize what a challenge it is. But when you look back on it, it was something unique." And so was Wendell Oliver Scott. Martinsville Speedway will host two consecutive weekends of racing with the Taco Bell 300 NASCAR Late Model Stock race on Sunday, September 24, the Goody's Body Pain 200 Featherlite Modified Tour race on Saturday, September 30 and the NAPA AutoCare 500 Winston Cup race on Sunday, October 1. Great seats are available for all of the events by calling toll free at 877-722-3849.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Vintage , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Junior Johnson , Wendell Scott