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Wendell Scott

Learning How To Drive A Car

Wendell Oliver Scott was born on August 29, 1921, in Danville, Virginia. Early on he was interested in cars and owned and drove his own taxi. Around 1940 he met his future wife Mary. He went into the Army around 1942 and served in the 101st Airborne division until 1945. In 1943 he and Mary were wed. They began raising their family in Danville, eventually having six children.

The Army had trained Scott as a mechanic. His skill with cars, along with a natural mechanical ability led him to become involved in the trafficking of illegal alcohol. Scott explained to Larry Edsall of Auto Week, "When I was young, I … started hauling whisky.… We would buy it for 55 cents a pint at Danville and sold it for $1.10 at Charlotte. But I learned how to drive a car." Transporting whiskey required Scott to drive fast and keep his car in good running shape. He was somewhat notorious in the region for being able to escape capture. The police knew who he was though, and that eventually helped him get his start in stock car racing.

Around 1947, a race promoter was trying to figure out how to get more African Americans to the racetracks. His attempts to find black racecar drivers were unsuccessful so he went to the police. Glick wrote Scott's description of the events, "He went to the county police and they told him about this 'darkie' they'd been chasing through the mountains, driving awful fast. That was me." The promoter contacted Scott and invited him to race at the Danville Fairgrounds. Scott borrowed one of his old liquor cars that he'd sold because it was beginning to be recognized by the police. In his first race, Scott placed third and won $50. He was hooked.

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Famous Sports StarsAuto RacingWendell Scott Biography - Learning How To Drive A Car, Facing Down Racism, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, One And Only Grand National Win