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Scott Had To Battle More Than Just Racing Things

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 21 2014

Wendell Scott was elected into NASCAR's Hall of Fame on Wednesday. (Photo by ISC Archives via Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Frankl Scott really preferred to not talk about the horrible things that his father, Wendell Scott, had to endure during his days as a black stock car driver in NASCAR’s premier series. Wednesday was a day to feel good – feel good about being elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame – Franklin said.

But apparently the weight of the horrible things that happened to a father finally became too much for a son to shoulder. Pulled to the side of celebrations that were swirling around him on the floor of the Hall of Fame after the Class of 2015 was announced, Franklin provided a few begrudging details.

Like the time somebody slipped him a mickey at a Dover. No kidding. Somebody actually drugged a drink that was handed to Wendell.

“He thought it was a cup of orange juice,” Frank, who is now 66 and was on the scene for much of the crud that was directed at his father, said. “He drank it and he was like a zombie for 36 hours. It was a mickey. We learned a lesson. After that, he wouldn’t drink anything unless it came from the family member.”

Similarly hurtful was the 3-year period when the promoters at Darlington wouldn’t let Wendell Scott in the garage gates on race weekends.

Compounding that hurt, Frankl said, were the explanations his father got from the promoters.

“They would give excuses like, ‘Well, we’re doing this for your own best interest, it’s for your own protection,’ ” Frank said. “They’d say, ‘We can’t control the bigots.’ ”

And Frank’s eyes rolled.

Death threats? There was a fair share of those.

Frank Scott remembers the one in Atlanta. Not because it was one that stuck out, but because of his father’s reaction. “I said, ‘Daddy, what are we going to do?’ ” Frank said. “He said, ‘Shoot, we’re going to Atlanta, Georgia.’ He said we had to because, ‘I need the money, you know, for the family?’ ”

There were other demonstrations of hatred and bigotry directed at Scott and his family. Constant things like slashed tires, sugared fuel tanks and other acts of sabotage.

By whom? “Don’t know. You never know these things.

“The people who do those things, you don’t know who the person is on the other end of the line. You just shove it off.”

Fellow competitors? “No, no, no, I didn’t say that. I wouldn’t say that,” Frank said. “Oh there were some who wrecked him and stuff like that, and they know who they are and we know who they are. But we aren’t going to call their names. They did it to keep him from being successful.”

All the ugly things directed at Scott probably affected his career numbers: He won just one Cup race, though he did pile up 147 career top-10 finishes.

But they did not keep him on history’s sidelines. Scott, in a room full of voters who actually raced against him and in some cases offered him support at a time when that was not a very popular thing to do, collected 58 percent of votes cast Wednesday.

Old-schooler after old-schooler pled his case.

And when NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France read his name to fans and interested parties in the Hall’s lobby late Wednesday afternoon, there were a lot of smiles and approving nods. Things that were in even shorter supply than top-shelf equipment and money for Wendell back during his days as a driver.

And it felt good and right.

In the interest of transparency; I did not vote for Scott this year, though I did a year ago. Instead, I voted for Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly, Fred Lorenzen because I was worried that those three very deserving competitors were facing a closing window in terms of electability. I also voted for Bill Elliott because he clearly needed to be a first-ballot inclusion and Robert Yates because I feel like people on the technical end of the sport need greater inclusion in the Hall.

I was convinced Scott’s time was coming and soon. In the end, I feel good about the people I did vote for but equally good about Scott getting his due. His election is not so much politically correct as just plan correct.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 21 2014
One Comment

One Comment »

  • The Old Guy says:

    To be very honest, if you were to look up “Racist” in the dictionary, you’d probably find my picture there.

    However, as concerns Wendell Scott.

    Never in the History of NASCAR has anyone done so much with so little.

    Scott built a racing career living out of the junk box of Holman-Moody racing.

    I really think that Scott’s time for the HOF should have already come.

    If you think that Scott’s only claim to fame is the color of his skin, then you seriously know nothing about racing.