Little Known Black History Fact: Wendell Scott, Greased Lightning

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    This week, the Commonwealth of Virginia honored black race car driver Wendell Scott with his own highway marker in Danville. In 1953, Wendell Scott became the first African American to obtain a NASCAR racing license. In 2012, Scott was also the first black race car driver on the nomination ballot for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Although he won the votes of fans on NASCAR.com, Scott was not inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    Wendell Scott made history in 1952 at the Danville Fairgrounds Speedway, where he was the first black to compete in the stock car racing competition.

    Scott was raised by his father in Danville, Virginia, who worked as a mechanic and a driver for the wealthy whites in the community. He taught Wendell how to drive and drive fast. The main sources of income in Danville were the cotton-gin and tobacco fields, but Scott refused to do those jobs because, he says, they “felt like prison.” Bored with school, Scott dropped out, got married and joined the army to fight overseas in Europe during WWII.

    When he returned, the future driver made a living making and selling moonshine whiskey. He practiced speeding on the road while outrunning the police on his whiskey runs. He often watched the speedway races in the “black-only” bleachers, yearning to be on the track.

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