Opinion: Did Voter Serve Scott Injustice?

Wendell Scott

Scott ranked third among those who did not make the Hall of Fame, behind only six-time Modified champion Jerry Cook and Joe Weatherly, a two-time champion in what is now the Sprint Cup Series. (Photo: ISC Archives)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - They sat in the second row and when it was over, one said they cried silent tears.

Wendell Scott, the only African-American to win a race in NASCAR’s top series, will not be in the 2014 Hall of Fame class. His family watched as NASCAR announced the selection of Tim Flock, Maurice Petty, Dale Jarrett, Jack Ingram and Fireball Roberts by a 54-member voting committee and a fan vote. Even before the last selection was announced, Michael Scott said he felt his father would not make the Hall this year.

He admitted wanting to walk out immediately after Roberts, the last inductee, was announced but didn’t. Frank Scott, another of Wendell’s sons, was disappointed and diplomatic. He hurt most for his mother, Mary, and wondered if she will live long enough see her husband inducted.

I told both Michael and Frank Scott that their father was on my ballot last year but was dropped from it this year. Never before had I dropped a nominee the following year even though they remained eligible. It came down to championships and wins. Wendell Scott could not compare with the other candidates on my ballot.

Would my vote have changed things? Maybe not, but it might not have taken much more for Scott to make this class. He ranked third among those who did not make the Hall of Fame, behind only six-time Modified champion Jerry Cook and Joe Weatherly, a two-time champion in what is now the Sprint Cup Series.

Wendell Scott creates a dilemma for Hall of Fame voters. His career statistics - one win in 495 starts over 13 years - does not merit Hall of Fame consideration. If he doesn’t belong in the Hall based on those numbers, then why did the nominating committee make him one of 25 candidates on the ballot?

Charity? Making amends? Or recognizing the struggles he endured just to get to the racetrack and even after he was there?

Racers face struggles in every series. Should Wendell Scott’s struggles count more than white drivers, who faced other issues?

"I feel strongly about Wendell Scott’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame, not because of the numbers he put up - they were not great, they were not Hall of Fame material at this time, taken on their own," said FOX-TV announcer Mike Joy. "But in the face of what he had to endure and how he had to compete, here’s a man who loved the sport as much as anyone who's ever competed. He did the absolute best with what he had and what he could get in the form of secondhand cars, cast-off parts and very, very limited sponsorship.

"What you accomplish in this sport and what obstacles are placed in your path need to be considered."

Lee White, President of Toyota Racing Development and a Hall of Fame voter, put Scott on his ballot.

"I grew up in a county in Missouri where, throughout all of my formative years, there was one person of color in the whole county so I have a bit of personal experience of what Wendell Scott might have gone through," White said. "It’s not so bad for all of us to use this forum to make a bit of a statement to help humanity as well as just recognize success on the racetrack."

Michael Scott talked about the time a track would not let his father race until his sons cut their beards and Michael cut his hair. Frank talked about the challenges Wendell had of getting to tracks, from what places would or would not sell him gas to where they could stay and if they would they be safe.

"For the stuff he had to do to go through to even get to the track, I feel he should be in the Hall of Fame for heart by itself," Michael said.

Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett, also a voter, noted Scott's "relentless effort."

"He he will eventually get into the Hall of Fame," Jarrett said.

Maybe it will be next year. Roberts was the nominee with the most number of votes last year who was not selected to the Hall. Flock was third on that list. With Wendell Scott failing to make the Hall, it means another year to ponder his candidacy and just what constitutes being Hall of Fame worthy.

It means another year of the Scott family returning to the NASCAR Hall of Fame to see if their father will be inducted or watch five other families celebrate again.

It also gives me a year to consider if I made the right decision to leave Scott off my ballot or a grave mistake.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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