Wendell Scott won only one race in his 13-year NASCAR career. The former taxi driver from Danville, Va., had his best season in 1966, when he placed sixth in the final standings. And his career average finish of 15.1 doesn't exactly inspire comparisons with the likes of Dale Earnhardt Sr. (11.1), Richard Petty (11.3) or Bobby Allison (11.5).
On statistics alone, it's easy to overlook Scott—and the NASCAR Hall of Fame nominating committee did just that last week when it left his name off the list of candidates who will be considered for enshrinement in 2012. But Scott, who drove in NASCAR from 1961 through '73, should have made the cut for one reason: He was the sport's Jackie Robinson.
To this day, Scott, who died in 1990 at 69, remains the only African-American driver to have competed full-time at NASCAR's highest level. What kind of hardships did he endure? He was banned from some tracks (including Darlington) and was the target of racial abuse in the garage. Even his career high point, a victory in Jacksonville on Dec. 1, 1963, was clouded by racism. Fearing that Scott's win would incite the crowd, the race promoter announced Buck Baker, who had finished second, as the winner. Soon after, NASCAR issued a correction.
Nearly 50 years later Scott deserves another amelioration: His name belongs on the Hall of Fame ballot.
ISC ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES (SCOTT)
GREAT SCOTT! The racing pioneer was in top form for his landmark '63 win.