Wendell Scott and Jackie Robinson have much in common. Both were black men who broke into a whites-only sport. Both did it in the South. And today, they're members of their respective sport's hall of fame.
Scott, who was voted into NASCAR's hall on Wednesday, won only one race in stock car racing's top division during a career that spanned from 1961-73. But his place in history is immortalized because of what he managed to do in a sport that did all it could to discourage him from succeeding. Sponsorship dollars? Forget it, especially for a black dude racing in the southern U.S. at the height of the civil rights era. First-rate equipment? Nope. Scott made do with the rebuilt and hand-me-downs. But he was determined to make a go of racing at the highest level, and turned in 147 top-10 finishes in 495 starts in what's called the Sprint Cup Series today.
It's hard to imagine what Scott, who died in 1990, would've accomplished in today's NASCAR. He obviously could wheel a stock car, so that wouldn't have been an issue. Perhaps he'd be to NASCAR what Lewis Hamilton is to Formula 1 – an international star with a series championship trophy back home. What he did accomplish, though, is produce results that paved the way for others to try their hand as drivers, crew chiefs and owners. Every person of color in big-league racing in the U.S. – or woman, for that matter – owes Wendell Scott a certain measure of gratitude. The Hall of Fame voters certainly understand it.