That's Racin Magazine
Bob Henry
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Reminder: NASCAR's Scott documentary

- bhenry@charlotteobserver.com
Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011

Sunday night, well after the Daytona 500 has been decided but is still being analyzed (“all over but the shouting” is how we put it growing up) ESPN will air an alternative well worth race fans’ time.

“Wendell Scott: A Race Story” is scheduled for 9 p.m. Eastern time. The story of a pioneering black racer competing in a white man’s sport half a century ago is a compelling one. Members of Scott’s family and historic footage tell it well.

One of the fiercely determined independent racers of the time, Scott was credited with only one NASCAR victory, in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1963. The NASCAR Media Group, Max Siegel Inc. and ESPN Films production frankly acknowledge how stock car racing officials essentially robbed Scott of the post-race glory that winners deserve.

They sent another driver to Victory Lane to celebrate. They waited until the mostly white crowd had left the track to give Scott his prize money.

Then last summer, 47 years later, as NASCAR's plans to honor Wendell Scott came together, the winner’s trophy was finally presented to his family.

Scott was not the first or only black man racing against long odds and long-held prejudices at NASCAR tracks.

In July 1955, Elias Bowie ran 172 of the 250 laps in one Grand National race in San Mateo, Calif. He was credited with 28th place.

In February 1956, Charlie Scott competed on the Beach Course in one of six Carl Kiekhaefer Chryslers. One was driven by Tim Flock, who won that day.

It’s said that Flock’s insistence helped put Scott in the car for one race. He finished 19th.

Charlie Scott and Wendell Scott were not related. They became friends.

George Wiltshire made two starts at NASCAR’s top level, one in 1971 and another in 1975. Wendell Scott was also in the field for the ‘71 event, at Islip, N.Y.

Wiltshire finished 28th that day and was credited with 32nd at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway five years later.

In May 1975, Randy Bethea made his only Cup start, in the 600-miler at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bethea finished 33rd in a D.K. Ulrich Chevrolet.

In 1986, Willy T. Ribbs made three Cup starts, finishing 22nd at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway and 29th at Riverside (Calif.) Raceway.

At Michigan International Speedway, the former open-wheel driver was credited with a 39th-place finish.

Bill Lester made two Cup starts, at Atlanta and Michigan, in 2005 after competing for several seasons in NASCAR’s Truck series.

He was credited with finishes of 28th and 32nd place.

If there were a race for diversity, the National Hot Rod Association would have won it a generation ago, when Shirley Muldowney became a Top Fuel champion.

When there’s talk of the current generation of NHRA competitors, names like Angelle, Antron, Ashley and Cruz come up routinely. That’s because women and minorities compete routinely – and win – at drag racing’s highest levels.

If drag racing called the roll before final eliminations, it wouldn’t sound much different than it does at our kids’ schools or where we work.

But there is no race for diversity and apparently not much of a hurry in the other major racing series.

With its treatment of the Wendell Scott story, NASCAR at least appears willing to acknowledge that it has a problem. Doesn't necessarily qualify as a first step.

Charlie Scott, Wendell Scott and those other racers took the first steps a long time ago.

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