Feb 27, 2014, 5:26 PM EDT
As it has done each year since 2010 on the first weekend of March, NASCAR will once again honor the legacy of Wendell Scott during this weekend’s four races at Phoenix International Raceway.
The weekend is designated because it marks what is now the 53rd anniversary of Scott’s first race in the NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) Series.
Every car that competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series, Mexico Toyota Series and K&N Pro Series West races will have a commemorative decal of Scott applied to either the B or C post of each vehicle during the entire weekend. Scott was recently among 20 drivers nominated for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015.
Although he won dozens of races on regional tracks across the Southeast, Scott became — and remains — the first African-American driver to win a Grand National race in NASCAR history, having done so on Dec. 1, 1963, in a 200-lap/100-mile event at the half-mile Speedway Park dirt track in Jacksonville, Fla.
In contrast to today’s racing standards, Scott’s average winning speed in the race was a relatively slow 58.252 mph, while pole-sitter Jack Smith’s top qualifying speed was just 70.921 mph.
Driving a Chevrolet Bel-Air he purchased from future NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett, Scott started from the 15th position in the 22-car field, ultimately passing Richard Petty – whose car was experiencing mechanical problems – with 25 laps remaining to go on and capture the checkered flag.
Scott’s win was steeped in controversy. Buck Baker, who finished runner-up, was initially declared the winner of the race, but that was changed several hours later when scoring officials realized Scott had indeed won by two laps.
Scott’s win stood as the only victory by an African-American driver in NASCAR’s three premier series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks) until last fall, when Darrell “Bubba” Wallace won the trucks race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Oct. 26, 2013.
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