JG Online


'Separate But Equal'
Spring 2008

April 15 marks the anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut in major league baseball. From coast to coast, baseball teams are holding ceremonies and players are wearing the #42 on their backs in honor of Robinson's accomplishments -- even though there are fewer black players in baseball today than at any time since Robinson broke the color barrier. And that got me to thinking. This year is the 45th anniversary of Wendell Scott's only NASCAR Cup series victory. Scott drove an underfunded car to victory in Jacksonville, Florida, in front of a less than partisan crowd to put it mildly.

In fact, NASCAR refused to acknowledge Scott as the winner of the Jacksonville race at the time it happened, presumably due to the racist culture of the Jim Crow-era South. Scott won the race, by two full laps over a white driver, but NASCAR awarded the win to the white driver in 2nd place. Only after the crowd had gone home did NASCAR admit that Scott had won. The tragedy in it is that the white driver was actually given the race trophy. NASCAR gave Wendell Scott a trophy about one month later, but it wasn't the "real" trophy from the race. You won't find that mentioned in your official NASCAR history book. Go figure.

NASCAR claims it is committed to diversity. But where are the honors for Wendell Scott's legacy? Why is the #34 simply another number in racing? Come to think of it, where is NASCAR's diversity program that was so highly touted just a few years ago? In 2004, NASCAR signed Magic Johnson as a spokesperson for its program. Yet Johnson's involvement has been completely negligible. He refuses most interviews when the mere subject of NASCAR is brought up. That's some ambassador; that's some program.

We all can witness the legacy of Jackie Robinson in today's baseball players. But why has Wendell Scott's place in racing history been largely forgotten? Why doesn't Wendell Scott's name hold the esteem in NASCAR circles that Jackie Robinson's name in baseball does? Nearly every baseball fan knows Jackie Robinson's name. But why have only a scant few race fans ever heard of Wendell Scott? Answers are the easy part; questions raise the doubt.

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