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Perseverance Led These Five To NASCAR’s Hall

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 31 2015

Franklin Scott and Wendell Scott Jr. celebrated their father's induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Friday night. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When I was a child my dad and I were sitting on the backstretch at Bristol during a race. He pointed to car No. 34 as it entered pit road and said, “Watch this.”

The driver positioned his race car in the proper pit box, turned off the engine, unbuckled and climbed from his car. He performed the work on his car, climbed back into the driver’s seat, buckled his shoulder harness and returned to the race.

My dad looked and me and said. “See. If you want to do something bad enough, you can do it.” The man was Wendell Scott, one of five drivers inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Friday night.

I never forgot my dad’s lesson and the attitude he instilled in me that day has played a major role in my life. It kept me forging ahead when times became tough.

Kyle Petty once told me racers will always find a way to make it work. I often think of Petty’s statement. And, you know, he’s right. Look at those in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, especially the five who were inducted Friday –Fred Lorenzen, Rex White, Scott, Joe Weatherly and Bill Elliott.

Lorenzen is remembered for becoming the first stock car driver to exceed $100,000 in a single season, for being Ford’s “Golden Boy”. His 16.46 career winning percentage ranks fifth all-time and is the highest among drivers without a NASCAR Cup series championship. However, it wasn’t always so golden for Lorenzen.

When the charismatic Lorenzen left his Elmhurst, Ill., home and headed for Charlotte, N.C., in 1960 he set up residence in a tiny trailer in a friend’s backyard and obtained a job at Holman-Moody. Lorenzen soon quit Holman-Moody, built his own Ford, and began competing in NASCAR’s premier series. With coaching from Fireball Roberts and Weatherly, Lorenzen finished eighth in the Daytona 500, but his career then spiraled downward. His funds lasted only eight more races.

Toward the end of the 1960 season, he was out of racing, discouraged, hungry and disgusted. He sold his race

Fred Lorenzen is escorted into the Hall of Fame by daughter Amanda Gardstrom and son Chris. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)

car for $7,500, paid off some debts and began begging for a ride. Car owners Bud Moore and Smokey Yunick declined his services, so he packed up and headed home, $5,500 in debt. Lorenzen returned to carpentry work.

It was a telephone call from Ralph Moody on Christmas Eve in 1960 that changed everything. That brought him back to Charlotte and forged the path to stardom.

The Elliott brothers – Ernie, Dan and Bill – often worked around the clock on their cars, preparing them for each race. The sleep they obtained came once they were at the track because when NASCAR closed its garage it forced them to go to their hotel rooms to sleep. Of course in the early days, that often meant a dozen people in the room because of their low funding.

Scott, the first African-American to compete in NASCAR’s premier series and win, often battled racism in the 1960s. In fact, he never got to enjoy victory lane because Buck Baker was flagged the winner that night in J

Rex White raced his own winning cars. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

acksonville, Fla. It was only after Scott protested and proved to NASCAR he was the winner that he was awarded the victory. By then, however, the fans were gone and so was Baker with the trophy. Scott’s team was a family operation with his children assisting the racing effort and everyone traveling together. The then segregated South prevented them from eating in certain restaurants.

Weatherly raced motorcycles before moving to stock cars, first in modifieds, then convertibles and eventually NASCAR’s premier series.

White fielded his own team and was the fourth driver to win a Cup championship in his own equipment. In order to eat and pay his bills, he had to win. And win he did, producing 28 victories between 1958 and 1962. No other driver had more wins in the series during that five-year stretch.

If you’ve noticed, there was a common thread that ran through those five men. It was a strong work ethic, tenacity and a passion for the sport. Perhaps Lorenzen’s daughter, Amanda Gardstrom described it the best when she talked about her father.

“He raised us with the same character and morals that he had, the determination that if you love something, you go after it, and you never give up and you keep, keep, keep going,” Gardstrom said.

And that’s exactly what the five inductees did; they kept going into eventual stardom and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 31 2015
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