Before Bubba Wallace, there was Wendell Scott

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Auto racer Scott Wendell of Danville, Va., stock car racing’s only African American driver, is shown May 24, 1972, with the maroon Chevrolet Monte Carlo he will drive in the World 600 at the Charlotte , N.C., Motor Speedway. The car was prepared by Junior Johnson and is owned by Richard Howard, who owns a string of furniture stores and also operates the track. (AP Photo)

TALLADEGA, Ala. (WIAT) — Before Bubba Wallace, there was Wendell Scott.

On Monday, Bubba Wallace became only the second Black driver to win in NASCAR’s top racing series. His win comes more than 50 years after Wendell Scott became the first.

Scott was a trailblazer in the sport. A native of Virginia, Scott was the first Black driver ever to compete in NASCAR, according to Brian Donovan’s book “Hard Driving: The Wendell Scott Story.”

Donovan writes that Scott received a NASCAR license without the knowledge of top executives, by instead obtaining one from a local official who warned Scott that it may cause controversy.

“I told him we’ve never had any black drivers, and you’re going to be knocked around,” the official reportedly said. “He said, ‘I can take it.’

The official was right: “He told me that when they found out at Daytona Beach that he had signed me up, they raised hell with him.”

During his NASCAR career, Scott participated in around 500 races, placing in the top 10 around 150 times.

His only win in a top NASCAR race was in Jacksonville, Florida in Dec. 1963. Even then, Scott didn’t receive his due. During a lengthy scoring dispute, his trophy was lost. It wasn’t until two decades after Scott’s death in 1990 that his family would receive a replica.

Scott was portrayed by Richard Pryor in “Greased Lightning,” a movie loosely based on his life story. Musician Mojo Nixon wrote a song, “The Ballad of Wendell Scott,” about Scott’s story.

Wendell Scott was eventually inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015, five years after its opening.

Aside from Bubba Wallace and Wendell Scott, only six Black drivers have ever participated in a top NASCAR race: Elias Bowie, Charlie Scott, George Wiltshire, Randy Bethea, Willy T. Ribbs, and Bill Lester.

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