The Frontstretch: Critics Have it Wrong In Wendell Scott Hall of Fame Debate by Tommy Thompson -- Thursday September 3, 2009

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Critics Have it Wrong In Wendell Scott Hall of Fame Debate

Thompson In Turn 5 · Tommy Thompson · Thursday September 3, 2009


At first glance, when little more than a month ago the NASCAR Hall of Fame 21-member Nominating Committee released its list of 25 candidates eligible for enshrinement into the inaugural Hall of Fame class, it appeared to be a pretty comprehensive list of the sports legends. The committee compiled its list of possible inductees from a broad spectrum of the sport; included were drivers, owners, and the founder of the organization. However, like most things NASCAR, there are those that have found fault with the sport for not including pioneering African-American driver Wendell Scott in the final cut.

Scott’s story is one that has been well-chronicled, and a name that most followers of the sport are familiar with. The driver, who campaigned in NASCAR’s top division now known as the Sprint Cup Series, competed in 495 events from 1961 through 1973. During his career, he campaigned almost exclusively in the racially divided Southeastern United States. Though enduring racial insults from spectators and at times unfair treatment from competitors, Scott’s story is a true example of personal grit, perseverance, and courage. It is a story that should continue to be told, and certainly one that should be honored.

But is inclusion on the list of NASCAR’s most influential and deserving candidates, or for that matter election into the sport’s inaugural group of five inductees, appropriate? The plain truth, absent political correctness or intimidation of being labeled racially biased is – no.

The criterion for consideration into the HoF is straightforward: Candidates will be selected based on their accomplishments and contributions to the organization. A survey of the top-25 candidates to be voted on for entry to the Hall would find that, without exception, all met at least one if not both of those qualifiers, far surpassing both Scott’s on-track accomplishments or contributions to the sport. The lone factor that distinctly separates Scott from dozens of other competitors, then, is that Wendell Scott was a black man.

Nonetheless, some feel that Scott should be honored as one of the top 25 or even top 5 individuals that have either accomplished or contributed the most to in the sport since its inception in 1949. Motorsports/Automobile Industry journalist Steve Parker believes that NASCAR made an error in excluding Wendell Scott from the first class of possible inductees, and shared his thoughts in his blog in the liberal-leaning Huffington Post. “NASCAR has a fabulous chance to grab some positive, international public attention as insiders and fans vote on the first five members of the sport’s new Hall of Fame,” he said. “But, as they’ve done before, the powers-that-be have blown it.”

The article then continued to bash NASCAR, complete with the issue of Confederate Flags being displayed by fans at race events and an indictment against sponsors that associate their companies with the sport. This was all, of course, in an effort to exemplify that racism is prevalent within stock car racing.

Now, as convoluted as Mr. Parker’s reasoning is, he is accurate in his belief that NASCAR could have generated some positive spin by including Wendell Scott on the list of 25 nominees. In fact, it may have been tempting for the nominating committee to take the easy road and throw Scott’s name into the mix. But of course, he would not have made the final cut, which then would without doubt bring about yet another round of jabs at the sport and the organization.

So really, what Mr. Parker and a number of others are suggesting is that NASCAR should have made a token and insincere gesture by including the Danbury, VA native’s name among the 25 most prominent people in the history of NASCAR. They are not asking for truth or accuracy – just political correctness.

Brian Donovan, who in 2008 penned the must-read biography of Scott’s life, “Hard Driving: The American Odyssey of NASCAR’s First Black Driver,” also takes NASCAR to task for the exclusion of Scott from Hall of Fame consideration. ‘‘Wendell Scott’s pioneering accomplishments certainly deserve recognition in NASCAR’s Hall of Fame. But it’s not surprising he’s not on the list,” Donovan said.

‘‘NASCAR doesn’t seem ready to admit that powerful officials in the sport repeatedly did him wrong.”

It’s true that Wendell Scott was, many times, treated wrong. It is hoped and assumed that NASCAR, like the nation, has progressed significantly in its racial attitudes since 1961. But mistreatment at the hand of some NASCAR-associated individuals does not in itself justify entry into the Hall of Fame.

Others, such as Allen Gregory of the Bristol Herald Courier, recently wrote, “He is NASCAR’s version of Jackie Robinson, yet that legacy was still not enough to earn Scott a spot among the 25 nominees announced this week for NASCAR’s first Hall of Fame.”

The Jackie Robinson of NASCAR? Not quite. First of all, Jackie Robinson not only broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, he was Rookie of the Year in 1947, a six-time All-Star, and the National League MVP in 1949. Additionally, Robinson opened the door for black players in the sport and thousands have since followed his path.

Over in stock car racing, though, there has been no African-American driver since Wendell Scott’s retirement due to injuries suffered at Talladega that has competed regularly in NASCAR’s elite series. Jackie Robinson’s entry into Major League Baseball was a monumental event that contributed significantly in changing the culture of the sport, if not the country. In truth, it cannot be said that Scott’s 1961 debut in NASCAR has had the same social impact.

Wendell Scott was a hell of a man and a dedicated racer. However, he was not part of any social movement nor motivated to race by anything more than his love of the sport and the freedom of being his own boss. In time, he gained through his tenacity, talent, and perseverance the admiration and respect of his fellow competitors and the fans that filled the grandstands.

Though his successes on the track were modest, his journey as a black stock car driver in the early days of NASCAR are noteworthy. The career of Wendell Scott in NASCAR was filled with instances of racially motivated injustices, as well as numerous examples of heartwarming, charitable acts by his competitors. Scott chose to be a black stock car driver at a time in this nation’s and the sport’s history when racism was commonplace, and there is no reason for NASCAR to hide from its past from admitting that.

When the much-anticipated NASCAR Hall of Fame opens next year in Charlotte, N.C. next year, Wendell Scott will not be among the first five inductees enshrined. Yet though his career did not meet the lofty requirement for inclusion, he should not be forgotten, either. The complete Wendell Scott story, both the flattering and not-so-flattering for NASCAR, should be prominently displayed. It is a story that should not be forgotten, and contains lessons that visitors to the Hall of Fame should never forget.

And… that’s my view from Turn 5.

Contact Tommy Thompson

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09/03/2009 07:33 AM

I finally do really think your on the NA$CRAP payroll!

One cannot discuss NA$CRAP’S past without mentioning WENDELL SCOTT!

Whatever sick spin you put on it, WENDELL SCOTT is NASCAR HISTORY!

Wendell Scott is part of the colorful, (pardon the pun)history of motorsports!

This article simply smells of yet another writer trying to make NA$CRAP’S “approved” list!

Maybe your trying to stay in their good graces by agreeing with what King Brian and group say and do!

First, you say the POS is GREAT!

Next you say that a part of NASCAR HISTORY is not given his proper due!

And in closing, you state the following: “It is a story that should not be forgotten, and contains lessons that visitors to the Hall of Fame should never forget”.

So, if Wendell Scott is not in the HOF, how will visitors REMEMBER him?

Shayne Flaherty
09/03/2009 07:47 AM

Wendell Scott should not be inducted just because he is black. I believe this article is well written and states the facts.

09/03/2009 08:18 AM

Douglas, no freakin’ way should Wendall Scott be among the 1st 5 inductees or even top 25 being considered. Are you saying that if he’s not he’ll be forgotten? Anybody who is passionate about this sport knows who he is. I’m sure the Hall will acknowledge him in one way or another, either as a pioneer or as a winner. To use him as an excuse to jump on TT is foolish, adding fuel to your personal vendetta against NASCAR. My hat is off to you, TT, excellent article.

09/03/2009 08:31 AM

I followed Wendell Scott when he was racing. I didn’t follow him because he was black, I followed him because he was so determined to race against impossible odds. I remember him getting out of his car to help change his own tires. He did nothing that would qualify him to be in the HOF but he will always be my hero.

Benny P
09/03/2009 09:07 AM

You cannot compare Wendell Scott to Jackie Robinson. Robinson didn’t come into baseball and then play with a stick and work glove. No, Major League Baseball gave him everything he needed to compete and to win. Not so for Scott, he was driving with cars made with parts from the scrap yard, never having the chance to race in a top tier car, and was still able to win.

And just because no African American’s have followed in his footsteps full time that cancels out anything he did? That’s bull. It’s easy for a kid to get a baseball bat and ball and start playing baseball, it’s not so easy for that same to kid to get a car to take to his local short track and race.

Comparing Robinson to Scott is like comparing apples to oranges. Scott deserves to be in the hall, maybe not in the first class but he definitely belongs.

Ed P
09/03/2009 10:40 AM

“Benny P” that is a good post. I definitely agree. Wendell Scott deserves to be in the Hall for sure, not the first five but in some five. I must admit I don’t know how it works…how he would get nominated or when. But if not this year then next. This article brings up some good points and some I agree with but in no way does it do justice to the issue. (and you dam right you cannot compare Jackie Robinson’s case with Scott; that’s just ludicrous). What if, just because of your color (or age or sex and ethnicity or just about anything on the menu) that you had your race car rejected at inspection or your entry rejected as Scott did at Darlington? Man I have been at Darlington in modern times as well as the 1960s…that STILL is a WHITE place. Hell I have even been in Victory Lane at Darlington with Race Hill Farm’s Sportsmans (ney Busch ney Nationwide) win in the mid 1980s. I know Darlington. I am from just up the road a piece. That’s not a place where modern thinking arose. I love the place just like I love my home state of SC, but just like this nation, we have some awful dark moments in our history when dealing with human rights. What about the US Constitution? Counts black folks as 3/5 for representation. Lemme tell ya, when have you ever met 3/5ths of a person? Lookit I am not apologist, my mantra is you pull yourself up by your bootstraps. But I can say that. I am white and I grew up in a time when a white, male youngster all across this land of ours had NO, repeat NO barriers to chasing whatever the hel I wanted to chase…dreams career women, etc…Wendell Scott had the worst this country had to offer guys and gals and yet he went on. Who had the dam right to block his dream? Huh? Tell me what King had that right? No one stood in my way to achieve. And achieve I did and did it well. But I might be a boil on a but if I had to face what Wendell Scott did. I might have run like a “frady cat” if I had to put up with what he did. Hey I can tell ya that Bill Gazaway was a bully in the worst way, who knows how many NASCAR had on the payrolls that they did and didn’t know about. They could do things my man and do it over and over where no one could suspect, or certainly prove…So my point is Scott deserves to be in the Hall, whenever he can get there. I don’t care about the first 25, there are a lot of people that did do great things for this sport. So if Scott ain’t in the first 25 so be it; just as long as he gets there. But no one can tell me or write that the man didn’t have guts and endured many many indignities to just do what he dreamed about doing. And NASCAR in the 1950s-1970s in the South was the toughest place on earth to do it in…just ask Hank Aaron or Ray Charles or John Lewis or read about Orangeburg SC or Rock Hill SC or countless people and places all across this land.

09/03/2009 10:51 AM

I’m tempted to say … WHO CARES ???? . Not regarding Scott , but regarding the latest “ please pay attention to us , we’re really a sport , look , we have an official hall of fame just like the stick and ball sports “ grab at the media . The ONLY reson that this blog constantly talks about the hof is that NASCAR e-mails them the latest breathless press releases every day , and if you don’t print them , you don’t get your press room credentials for the races .
Concerning Wendell Scott , he never really had a chance , not in his racing career and certainly not being inducted into this ridiculous hof . Scotts’ treatment at the hands of NASCAR during his driving career ( i encourage the readers to look it up , if you don’t think NASCAR and track owners are capable of fixing races )and now in the vetting for entry into the hof is nothing if not racially motivated . Now obviously his name shouldn’t be included in the selection process because hes black . He deserves to be included in the first round because he dealt with more adversity than any other racer in the history of NASCAR . And he not only dealt with it gracefully , he refused to be run out of the sport he loved . Scotts long career was due to his hard work and determination , while receiving virtually no breaks of any kind , in fact , having additional barriers thrown up in front of him by the competitors , the fans , the track owners , and good old NASCAR .
A number of the people on the inaugural list have far less reason to be included than Scott does . And future inductees will have even less reason to be included ( Rick Hendrick ? are you serious ? ) but i suspect that won’t sway the voting .

Ed P
09/03/2009 11:41 AM

Well I suspected we were in trouble when I saw in this article “liberal-leaning Huffington Post”. No one ever writes the “conservative-leaning Frontstretch” or the “conservative-leaning The State”. It’s always about Nancy Pelosi and the Huffington Post and all those evil doers out there, instead of just writing about an issue. NASCAR as you point out “marshall” has their stooges in the ranks of the news media and they use them mightily. On the other hand those people in the news media that were quick to whack NASCAR over the Jeremy Mayfield issue, well now that’s a study in EAT CROW. I would surely hate to put my media credentials on the line for Jeremy Mayfield. I would do it in a heartbeat for someone like Wendell Scott who may not be perfect but tried very hard to life his dream, while folks like Mayfield, well, hmmm…

09/03/2009 11:46 AM

NASCAR has no chance of ever being a “mainstream” and inclusive entity. By seeking to glorify its villainous, racist, inglorious past, it typifies and verifies its lack of desire to represent the true culture of our country.
Perhaps Wendell Scott, if he was alive, would choose not to stamd and be remembered as a member of such a shameful group, so continuously proud of itself.
NASCAR should stand for

“Nationl Association of Shamful Cretans and Racists” !

I’m starting to really be disgusted by racing, as a whole, especially, Brian, Bruton and all the BS.

09/03/2009 12:19 PM

Ed P-

Just have to straighten this out, as I hate seeing the 3/5 clause used to prove past racism. People who were slaves were counted as 3/5 for representation purposes. If you were black and free, you’d be counted fully for representation purposes. Quite frankly, it would have been better for the slaves to have been counted as 0/5, since they couldn’t vote and their slave owners were given increased representation in Congress simply for owning more slaves.

On topic, while Scott is certainly one of the more brave and heroic people associated with our sport, and a talented driver as well, it’s not like he would have won fifty races and five championships if only he were white… and it’s not like he had legions of pioneers to follow in his tire tracks, either; has there ever been a black driver who ran more than two or three races since Wendell hung up his driving gloves? If they keep picking five people a year to be in the Hall, though, he shouldn’t have to wait more than ten years. And in the meantime, we know he was one of the good guys.

09/03/2009 12:35 PM

How much does everyone want to bet that the very instant that one Rick Hendrick “retires”, they will hold a special induction ceremony for this guy!


So we have true CROOK revered by NA$CRAP!

But a REAL example of NASCAR HISTORY being shunned!

What a shame, what a friggin shame!

09/03/2009 02:57 PM

Douglas, you are right on the money with the Hendrick article.
Can someone help me with this my memory is about shot. I remember a few years Humpy Wheeler getting a top tier car and letting a less fortunate low budget driver enter it in a Charlotte race. Wendell Scott was chosen to drive such car one year but it was too much car for him. I think he drove it several laps and maybe wrecked. Wish I knew where to look up this piece of history.

09/03/2009 04:34 PM

Yeah Humpy got Scott a ride but it was no where near a top tier car that Scott couldn’t handle. It was a piece of crap that came from the scrap yard of someone’s team and had to be fixed up and painted pretty so it would look “nice” it was in no way a top tier car, it was along the same tier of car that Scott drove his whole career. As for the article read the book “Hard Driving” and it explains exactly what Humpy did; promised Scott a top tier car and then handed him a pos.

Ed P
09/03/2009 04:57 PM

Ramblin Wreck you are entitled to your opinion. I wasn’t using the 3/5ths piece to prove racism, I was using it to show what many and deep shames we have as a country in human rights. History is replete with the wrongs we have committed on our own citizens. It just is. I don’t care how much revision you do to history. And I don’t care how much you try to change the facts, on point, Wendell Scott (black, white pink yellow blue or purple) was discriminated against in the worst way. It’s the worst kind of behavior we can do to each other—other than murder. So don’t give me your history lesson on this. I can betcha if you were subject to such criminal acts that you would run with your tail between your legs. Get over it—3/5ths was wrong and so was Wendell Scott’s treatment.

And Fred you are way way wrong and the people involved would tell you so. The car Scott got at Charlotte was way sub standard, it was a Junior Johnson car and he has said publicly that the car wasn’t up to billing because as he put it, he was working on his own stuff for the race and didn’t have the time to devote to the Scott car. He has said that, not me. The billing, like a lot of things at CMS was PR mish mash to sell tickets. They didn’t the same thing with a female and other stunts to sell tickets. But that is there right, no problem there. But don’t tell me Scott had “too much car for him.” The car was junk and billed as a top ride. So yall go ahead and argue that because the facts speak for themselves and the people involved all have spoken on that one.

NASCAR has some deep and wide shames as well. Not standing up for Scott; Tim Richmond…Come on Ramblin Wreck, tell me how that one worked. How about Talladega 1969 and the PDA. Ever heard of James Hylton? Well he won at Talladgea didn’t he? He ran in that first one though. NASCAR & Junior Johnson…Hey they didn’t call it the “company car” for nothin. Bobby Allison sued NASCAR for big engines, so to speak, and it took him a long time to win a championship. On point Ramblin Wreck? Just showing that what NASCAR wants NASCAR gets. And they didn’t want Wendell Scott a star in a southern based sport in the 1950s and 1960s. And they, unlike other places, COULD do something about it.

09/03/2009 05:09 PM

“a REAL example of NASCAR HISTORY being shunned!” Huh? Is Bobby Hillin Jr. on the list? No? Must be shunned. How about Phil Parsons? No?Inexcusable! Wendell Scott was a part of history and will be in the Hall in due time, the only one saying he was shunned is you, Douglas. If you folks would notice, TT did not compare him to Jackie Robinson, the idiot from the Bristol Herald Courier did. This omission from the present list is not about race. Don’t make it be so.

Contact Tommy Thompson