Like many of the early NASCAR drivers, Wendell Scott started out hauling moonshine in a souped up car he maintained himself. Scott was a clever entrepreneur, opening a taxi service in his native Danville, Virginia to shuttle the local residents around town by day, then using the cab under the cover of darkness to bring them the white lightning.
With his popularity among the moonshiners growing as word of his driving ability spread through the mid-Atlantic region, Scott began entering races at local dirt tracks throughout Virginia and North Carolina in 1952. He tasted success only one month into his driving career, winning his first race on the red clay half mile in Lynchburg, Virginia at the age of thirty.
Determined to move up in the sport of stock car racing, Wendell Scott traveled the south during segregation, showing up at NASCAR events with his number thirty-four ready to race. He was turned away from many tracks, told by speedway personnel that he would not be able to compete due to the color of his skin. Encountering signs at restrooms, water fountains and restaurants that read “White Only” was a common occurrence for Scott, who never seemed to let it bother him. “I expected all of that,” he said of his trials to become a NASCAR driver in segregated America.
Wendell Scott was issued a NASCAR license for the first time and allowed to compete at the old Richmond Speedway in Virginia, either in 1952/1953. Record books indicate that Scott went on to compete in 495 Grand National and Winston Cup – known today as the Sprint Cup Series – events over thirteen seasons and collected $180,814 in purse winnings. He is credited with one NASCAR win, a controversial race held on December 1, 1963 in Jacksonville, Florida. Initially Buck Baker was flagged the winner and celebrated in victory circle. Scott was awarded the victory hours after the race was completed and left the track that day without the winner’s trophy. Many said NASCAR would not allow him to celebrate in victory lane because he would have had to kiss a white beauty queen.
Greased Lightning, a movie detailing the history of Scott’s career, was produced in 1977 and starred Richard Pryor as Wendell Scott. Scott worked with the producers and was promised royalties, but never received any. Wendell Scott passed away on December 23, 1990 at the age of sixty-nine.
Source: Ray Everett, Legends of NASCAR