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Wendell Scott

Career-ending Crash

Even skilled drivers can be involved in accidents, and Scott had his fair share. Sometimes he was able to fix the car and get back out on the track to finish the race. Sometimes even the best attempts failed. Scott was never injured seriously in a wreck until 1973 when he was involved in a multiple-car pileup at the Talladega Speedway in Alabama. The resulting injuries nearly killed him. He survived the crash despite fracturing his ribs, pelvis, both knees, and one of his legs. He also needed sixty stitches to close up a wound on his arm. The wreck forced Scott to retire.

After retiring, Scott worked full-time in the auto repair shop he'd opened around 1950. The money he made from racing and the repair shop helped him send all six of his children to college. In the late '70s, he served as a consultant for the film Greased Lightning, which was based on his life and starred comedian Richard Pryor. Unfortunately, Scott was diagnosed with spinal cancer in mid-1990, and succumbed to its effects on December 23, 1990, after six months in the hospital. In recognition of his importance to the racing community as well as the regard in which they held him a group of racers held a show featuring racing memorabilia and an auction to raise money to help pay for the costs of his hospitalization.

Greased Lightning

Released in 1977, Greased Lightning chronicled Wendell Scott's racing career from his days transporting moonshine to his astonishing success in NASCAR's Grand National races. The film starred Richard Pryor as Scott, Pam Grier as his wife, and Beau Bridges as Hutch, a former competitor who becomes Scott's close friend.

Scott served as a technical consultant on the film and was not impressed with the stunt car drivers. The film suffered from the same fate that often afflicted Scott in his career as a racecar driver—insufficient funds. Pryor is reported to have felt the proudest of this role than any other because of how Scott was able to further the cause of civil rights in the arena of sports.

The only hall of fame induction that Scott received while he was alive was into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame. Since his death, his commitment to racing and the adversity that he faced so winningly have earned him spots in national and international halls of fame. Although Scott didn't break NASCAR wide open for other African-Americans to enter, he did set an example of integrity and determination.

Additional topics

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