June 28, 2005

The Ballad of Wendell Scott:: On December 1, 1963, Wendell Scott, a taxi driver and part-time bootleg liquor runner from the backwoods of Virginia, won his only NASCAR race. Unfortunately, it took two months of back-and-forth before NASCAR actually recognized his achievement, because Wendell Scott was an African-American, the first to ever compete in a Grand National race, let alone win one.

He raced on the Grand National circuit for years, starting 495 races, finishing in the top ten 147 times, often working at significant financial disadvantage to the rest of the field. He was elected to the International Motorsports Hall Of Fame in 1999. (Admittedly, I first heard his name from a Mojo Nixon song.)

Since then, Randy Bethea, Willy T. Ribbs and Bill Lester have built NASCAR careers, and many others have found in Mr. Scott a real hero who succeded despite an often huge disadvantage in funding and support, and perhaps a bigger gap in ignorance, which is only now beginning to fade.

posted by chicobangs to auto racing at 09:00 PM - 16 comments

There's nothing especially timely about this, far as I know, but smithnyiu mentioned black NASCAR drivers, and I figured why not.

posted by chicobangs at 09:04 PM on June 28, 2005

One more link: Richard Pryor played Wendell in Greased Lightning, the story of his life.

posted by chicobangs at 09:09 PM on June 28, 2005

This is just exactly the sort of fascinating and informative post I come to SpoFi in the hope of finding. Thanks chico.

posted by squealy at 03:53 AM on June 29, 2005

Cool beans, chico. I had no idea that a) this guy existed, and b) that Richard Pryor played him in a movie about his life ?!? That's like getting, uh, geez - what's the white equivalent of Richard Pryor? Must be super funny and iconic - uncommonly cool. Good lord, I can't think of a soul. Holy shit, this can't be good news for the mayonnaise and light beer set. I think we should have to close down the House of Blues as punishment for never producing a white Richard Pryor.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:22 AM on June 29, 2005

Thanks for the link, cb. I absolutely love the idea of a cab driver making it in professional racing.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:44 AM on June 29, 2005

Must be super funny and iconic - uncommonly cool. Good lord, I can't think of a soul. Holy shit, this can't be good news for the mayonnaise and light beer set. The names Bill Hicks and Lenny Bruce don't ring any bells? In the first picture of Mr. Scott, he looks like the love child of Gene Hackman and Eli Wallach. This is priceless: "I can remember talking to Richard (Petty) one time in California after a race at Riverside. He said, "Franklin, when do you think yall get home? I told him at the earliest Thursday evening. He told me he would be home that night, that he was on the way to the airport. Richard always felt bad about the way we had to struggle. Before I left he said to me, "You know what makes me mad, is Ive got all these people working for me and all this money and Im not running much damn faster than yall."

posted by NoMich at 10:26 AM on June 29, 2005

Bill Hicks and Lenny Bruce are funny and super-talented - but neither approach the icon that was/is Richard Pryor. Most people didn't know who Bill Hicks was until after he died. Not in the same class. Nope, I've thought about it, and when you factor in the reverance that Pryor gets from his stand-up peers and his status in the black community, there is no white guy equivalent. Need to think of someone like a movie-star-priest. George Carlin? Seems wrong. Great - well this is going to take all day. Good thing I'm at work.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:37 AM on June 29, 2005

NoMich, I thought of Bill Hicks too, except Pryor had a serious dollop of sex appeal on top of the whole boundary-breaking-comic thing, not to mention that Pryor didn't mind the Hollywood game. Hicks couldn't stand the place (see: Arizona Bay). And seriously, could you imagine Lenny Bruce doing anything athletic? I might host and post Mojo's "Ballad of Wendell Scott" tonight. It's a great rave-up singalong, and from what I've seen, it's very in the spirit of the guy. (I didn't know that Mojo and Wendell are both from Danville, VA. Must be something in the water.)

posted by chicobangs at 10:46 AM on June 29, 2005

Wendell Scott was so under financed and staffed that he came into the pits for gas and tires, got out of his car and helped change the tires with a 4-way lug wrench. Got back in after the tires were changed and continued in the race. Willy T. Ribbs built his racing career in road racing. The Trans-Am Series if I remember correctly. He never did anything when it came to Nascar. Bill Lester is pretty good and has a chance to move up to the Busch Series. Hopefully someone will give him a chance. I'm looking for Danica Patrick to get bored with the IRL and move to Nascar in the future.

posted by dbt302 at 10:50 AM on June 29, 2005

And seriously, could you imagine Lenny Bruce doing anything athletic? Why yes, yes I can. Right after he shoots up a nickel bag.

posted by NoMich at 11:09 AM on June 29, 2005

I'm wondering how someone Danica's size will handle the bulk of the Cup cars. I know she works out (obviously :) ) but the IRL cars are much easier to turn and handle. I think she definatley has the skill but I'm just wondering about the physical side of it. 20 years ago before power steering in the Cup she never could have done it but now maybe.

posted by scottypup at 11:17 AM on June 29, 2005

IRL cars are lighter but the G Forces are much greater. A Nextel Cup car has the heat issue. They are like ovens on wheels. I'd like to see her run a Busch car and see what she can do. I bet there are a few teams that have talked to her about a test session sometime down the road. A friend of mine did the Petty Experience in Atlanta. He said after the 8 lap run, his shoulders were killing him because of the physical strain. Lets face it. Kasey Kahne isn't much bigger than Danica is.

posted by dbt302 at 11:52 AM on June 29, 2005

Kahne is about 40 pounds heavier and 4 or 5 inches taller. Danica is only about 5'1" I'm not sayng I don't think she can do it. I'm just wondering how she will handle the extra physcial requirements for that heavy of a car. I'm like you I'd like to see her in a Busch car or even an IRoC.

posted by scottypup at 12:19 PM on June 29, 2005

You might see her in IROC just because it would a great TV draw.

posted by dbt302 at 03:25 PM on June 29, 2005

The names Bill Hicks and Lenny Bruce don't ring any bells? There's always George Carlin.

posted by rockin_the_suburbs at 11:33 AM on June 30, 2005

Super funny, iconic, uncommonly cool, athletic. Steve Fucking Martin, dudes.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 05:57 PM on June 30, 2005

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