Darrell Wallace's win at Martinsville marked just the second time in this sports history that an African American won in one of NASCAR top series. The first was Wendall Scott back in 1963.
Scott’s story is nothing like that of Wallace. Scott endured the tumultuous 1950’s and 1960’s in a racially motivated south. It was a region of the country struggling to hold onto to its Confederate ideologies.
Peter Golenbock, author & sports journalist once said, “Wendell Scott was to NASCAR what Jackie Robinson was to baseball. The difference was that Robinson played in liberal Brooklyn and had the backing of Branch Rickey, and Scott raced in the segregated South and had . . . nobody.”
The civil rights battle was just gaining ground. Riots, murders and marches became the headlines.
Still, life moved on and Scott continued to run races and compete with equipment that was never even competitively close.
He was spit at, called names, taunted and ridiculed. He never wavered and never gave up.
His win was a back story that day in Jacksonville, Florida. Scott never did physically receive the trophy. He died in 1990 but NASCAR finally awarded his family the trophy in 2010. 47 years too late for Scott to ever experience the joys of victory lane.
With the eyes of the world on the south during this time, an African American man kissing a white woman would sure set off the ticking time bomb that was on the cusp.
Like Scott’s win, his career has never really received the credit it deserved. Scott was pioneer in this sport, paving the way for a guy like Wallace.
Wallace path to NASCAR goes directly through NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. Wallace became the first African American to win in the K&N series.
He started off racing go-karts and then late models. His family stretched every dollar, every penny they had so Wallace could race. If it wasn’t for Joe Gibbs and the Drive for Diversity program, Wallace might not have ever won a race in NASCAR; the money was running out.
While not at the same level or as contentious as Scott, Wallace was called names and racial slurs. He and his family never wavered and never gave up on Wallace’s dream.
Wallace carries the responsibility of Scott’s legacy with respect and pride. “It means everything,” Wallace said after he had time to digest what had happened. “This is an emotional win for me, especially to do it in Wendell Scott’s backyard.”
Yes, Scott lived just 30 miles from Martinsville in Danville, Va. In fact, take a trip and you could see the truck he used to drive to the track along with his shop where he worked on his cars.
It is a far cry from the million dollar shops, technologies and resources that helped lead Wallace to victory lane.
The progress for minorities has been stunted over the years by lack of money, sponsorship and opportunities.
Even with Wallace’s win the work though is far from done in NASCAR when it comes to diversity on the track. Wallace was just one of hundreds of drivers battling; working and striving to one day find themselves in victory lane.
Wallace’s win should be celebrated. It is an achievement for this sport and for Wallace. The work though is far from over. "It's for the better and trying to change the sport. I'm all in for that. Just carrying the torch that Wendell Scott laid down for us and taking it farther. That's the biggest thing I'm trying to do.”
Until we see other drivers from other diverse backgrounds on a weekly basis the past still haunts its future.
For one sunny Saturday afternoon, Wallace shook some of NASCAR’s greatest demons and found himself in victory lane.
The first of many for one of NASCAR rising stars who looks to continue to rewrite the history books one race, one victory at a time.
For more information on NASCAR Drive for Diversity program click here.
Thanks to USA Today and http://www.wendellscott.org/ for the quotes.