Tuesday, April 19, 2011

50 years after first NASCAR start, Wendell Scott's still waiting

   Wendell Scott never got the trophy he won for his lone victory in NASCAR's Cup series.

   He's not getting an easy ride toward a nomination to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, either.

   Another group of 25 nominations to the Hall were released on Tuesday night and again Scott's name was not among them. There have been 35 people nominated to the Hall since its inception and 10 inducted.

   And Scott remains in neither category. Why is Scott's omission so glaring?

   For one, he has been hailed by NASCAR officials time and again as a pioneer for African-Americans in the sport. He is the only African-American driver to win a race in NASCAR's national series. He made 495 starts at what is now the Cup level between 1961-73. He had 147 top-10s and one pole. The Danville, Va., native died in 1990 at age 69.

   On Dec. 1, 1963, Scott won the Cup race at Jacksonville, Fla. He was not announced as the winner of the race at the time as the race promoter did not want to stir racial tensions at the track. Buck Baker, the second-place driver, was declared the winner until NASCAR issued a correction a few days later.

   Based on statistics alone, Scott probably isn't worthy of Hall consideration, but his imprint left on the sport was much larger than his lone victory.

   Late last year, NASCAR in conjunction with Max Siegel Inc. took the idea of a docu-drama about Scott's life to ESPN. The network agreed to run it, and it was produced by the NASCAR Media Group and aired the night of this season's Daytona 500.

   "Wendell Scott’s legacy will live on forever as the man who broke NASCAR’s color barrier and whose courage and bravery paved the way for minorities to pursue careers in the world of motorsports,” Paul Brooks, senior vice president of NASCAR and president of NASCAR Media Group, said at the announcement of airing of the  special.
   Siegel was the executive producer of the film and founder of Revolution Racing, which today provides competitive race cars to further develop the skills and capabilities of minority drivers seeking to compete in NASCAR.

   In March, all Sprint Cup and Nationwide cars competing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway were adorned with a commemorative decal bearing the image of Scott in honor of the 50th anniversary of his first start.

   Obviously, NASCAR believes Scott's legacy and contribution to the sport is worthy of high honors and recognition.

   The argument here is not that Scott should already be inducted into the Hall, although I think he should. Scott can't even get nominated - named someone worthy of possible induction.

   That is wrong.

   In its news release announcing the airing of the Scott special, ESPN said: "Scott, one of the sport’s most iconic pioneers who is often referred to as the Jackie Robinson of motorsports, paved the way for minorities and women."

   It’s sadly ironic that when it comes to the Hall of Fame, Scott still can't reach the starting line.

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