Finally. At last. Glory be and halleluiah!
After almost 58 years, the late Wendell Scott can rest easy.
On Friday night, in Daytona Beach, NASCAR spoke at length about the importance of presenting the Hall of Fame driver’s family a replica of the trophy he never received after winning the 1963 Cup Series race at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. The presentation will be Saturday, shortly before the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
The ceremony will close the circle left open after Scott’s breakthrough victory on Dec. 1 at the half-mile dirt track. At the time—it remains so today—it was the only Cup victory by a Black driver in NASCAR’s 2,608-race history, dating to 1949. Seven other Blacks have competed in at least one Cup race, but only Bubba Wallace—the 2018 Daytona 500 runner-up—has come anywhere near Victory Lane.
Friday afternoon’s press conference marked the end of a long, emotional, and oft-time frustrating effort by Scott’s family to get the Jacksonville trophy. It’s thought the late Hall of Fame driver and two-time champion Buck Baker took it when he left town that Sunday night. He was flagged the race winner and went through the usual post-race media sessions and Victory Lane ceremonies.
By the time a scoring review showed Scott the rightful winner, the trophy was likely well on its way northward with Baker, headed for his Charlotte, North Carolina, home. Members of Baker’s family have always said they don’t have the trophy and don’t know what became of it. The original trophy remains lost to history.
After some gentle prodding and serious self-reflection, NASCAR picked this weekend to give the Scott family a spanking-new trophy, as close to the original as can be determined. “This is the World Center of Racing, this weekend ends our regular season, and we’re close (Sunday) to what would have been Wendell’s 100th birthday,” said NASCAR executive Brandon Thompson. “And we’re only about 100 miles from Jacksonville, where Wendell won that historic race. He earned that trophy and he’s going to get it tomorrow.”
Some background is in order
Scott won that long-ago 200-lap, 100-mile race, but it was anything but a straightforward green-to-checkered victory for the struggling, underfunded, doggedly determined driver from Danville, Virginia. Baker, a popular, two-time, white champion, was flagged the winner after what turned out to be 202 laps. He drove to Victory Lane, posed with the white trophy queen, spoke with the media, loaded up, and left the property.
But Scott, who died during Christmas week of 1990, was so sure he’d won that he asked for a scoring review. Scoring was pencil on paper back then, an intense and tedious exercise often subject to honest human error or outright cheating. Reviews were routine, so Scott was well within his rights to ask for one. Wisely, he didn’t claim anything underhanded; he simply wanted an audit of the scorecards.
It took officials almost two hours to find that indeed, he was the winner by two laps. Perhaps coincidentally (wink-wink)—or perhaps intentionally (after all, this was Dixie in the ‘60s) – fans, competitors, the media, and the trophy queen had left by the time the ruling came down. Scott got the $1,000 winner’s check, but there was no Victory Lane ceremony, no media interviews, no photos with the trophy queen, and no trophy. He and his two-man crew quietly loaded up and headed home. They knew better than to celebrate openly.
Until several years ago the family stayed relatively silent about the missing trophy. But when NASCAR began expanding and promoting its diversity efforts—when Black Lives Matter became a popular cause—the Scotts began asking questions. Primarily: when will NASCAR do the right thing and find the original trophy or create a replica?
“One of the greatest atrocities in sports history is the fact that Wendell Scott never received his trophy from 57 years ago in Jacksonville,” his grandson, Warrick, said in a 2020 NASCAR-produced video highlighting his grandfather’s life and times. “Now is the time to show that NASCAR is a sport for all people, not just some.”
In a 2020 interview with a Roanoke, Virginia television station, he added: “The trophy was given to the person they announced as the winner (Baker) in front of my grandfather. Hours later, when all the fans and the Associated Press had left, that was when the money was given to my grandfather. But there was no trophy.”
Although Scott never received an actual trophy, the family did receive a replica at Golden Isles Speedway in south Georgia in 2010. That presentation didn’t involve anyone from NASCAR; rather, it was from a racing fan club in the area. The Scott family said in 2020 they were still waiting for NASCAR to properly recognize Wendell’s victory.
“We’d like for NASCAR to have an official ceremony for maybe 10 minutes next year and give us a trophy of their own,” Frank Scott, one of the late driver’s sons, told Autoweek last summer. “NASCAR had nothing to do with the replica trophy that the racing club gave us in Georgia 10 years ago, so we’d like for NASCAR to have an official ceremony for maybe 10 minutes next year and give us a trophy of their own.
“There’s your easy fix right there; that would make it right. And let me tell you: with everything going on right now, that little ceremony would help them as much as it would help us.”
On Friday, Frank Scott spoke of the importance of the moment. “It’s historic because it will help build a foundation,” he said. “It’s an excellent avenue to get people in the sport. NASCAR has done what it said it would be and I’m pleased they’re going in the right direction for diversity. Yes, we were sometimes frustrated (at the pace of things), but we put our faith in what my father said would one day happen.
“He told us, ‘I may not be with you at the time, but someday I’ll get that trophy.’ He also told us, ‘Just because I might lose the race, it doesn’t mean I’m defeated.’”
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