NASCAR’s first African-American winner honored

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The Commonwealth of Virginia has honored the late Wendell Scott, the first African-American driver to win in what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, with a historical highway marker in his hometown of Danville, Virginia.

Scott made 495 starts over 13 seasons in NASCAR’s top series, notching his one and only victory on Dec. 1, 1963 at Jacksonville, Florida. He was not announced as the winner at the time (Buck Baker, the second-place driver, was initially declared as such until race officials found out later that Scott had not been credited for two laps), and Scott’s family didn’t get a replica trophy for his win until 2010.

But this week, Scott, who passed away in 1990, has been hailed for his role as a trailblazer in the sport.

“Wendell Scott is very much a part of NASCAR’s and Virginia’s history,” said NASCAR president Mike Helton. “We join others in thanking the Commonwealth of Virginia for the honor they are bestowing on Mr. Scott, one that is well deserved. The Scott family has been instrumental to NASCAR as we developed our multicultural efforts, and it was Wendell Scott who served as such an inspiration to us all.”

Scott’s daughter, Sybil, called the honor from the Commonwealth “very humbling.”

“We believe daddy is with us in spirit, smiling on his friends, peers, family and especially his fans and our mother who are witnessing the fruits of his labor,” she said. “The historic marker stands tall and today’s representation by local, state and NASCAR officials assure that his struggles against the odds, but more importantly, his accomplishments are undeniable.”

Scott was nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year, and was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999.

What’s next for Danica Patrick after the Indy 500? Dreams, downtime and waffles

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INDIANAPOLIS – When Danica Patrick was a 14-year-old growing up in Roscoe, Illinois, she had a firm idea of what she’d be doing 20 years later.

A reporter from her hometown newspaper recently reminded her of that in a recent interview when he brought a prescient artifact from those teenage years – an essay that she crafted as an up and coming go-kart driver about her racing accomplishments.

“I’m breezing through it, and then at the end, it said, ‘I wanted to race Indy cars,” Patrick, 36, said Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I was 14. I told him, ‘See? If this isn’t an example of “Write that shit down,” nothing is.’

“This is manifesting. You have write it down and you have to imagine what you want. So I do that as much as I can.”

Heading into the final start of her career in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 (she will start seventh in her No. 13 Dallara-Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing), Patrick already seems to have a solid idea of the next 20 years — in part, because of having some glimpses into her post-racing life.

There has been plenty of downtime since her final NASCAR start in the Daytona 500 three months ago. She has taken vacations (including an India trip to meet the Dalai Lama with boyfriend Aaron Rodgers) and created several new routines on her suddenly free from racing weekends.

“I make waffles on Sundays now,” she said. “That’s pretty fun.  In the summer, there’s like farmers market.  I can’t wait for that.  I mean, there’s going to be probably some new stuff that I don’t know yet.

“The one thing that I am definitely looking forward to less of is less stress.  Last weekend was awesome at the end of it all because it went well with qualifying, but I was nervous for 95% of that weekend. That’s uncomfortable.”

But testing her comfort zone is appealing to Patrick, who has spent most of her adult life testing the boundaries of gender norms in her profession. Though the pressure of race weekends might disappear, her incessant quest for challenges probably will remain.

Now that racing is over, Patrick still has a winery, a clothing line, a cookbook and a fitness manual to promote – and more is on the way.

“I just have a habit for pushing myself to uncomfortable spaces, making them comfortable for me,” she said. “At least just making them comfortable enough to be able to manage.

“As an example, I went bungee jumping a long while back, like 10 years.  I’m super scared of heights.  I’m still scared of heights.  But I just like to know that if I want to do something, I am brave enough and confident enough to do it.  That doesn’t mean I’m not still scared.  That doesn’t mean it’s not still something that’s easy to me afterward. I just like to know I can get past the fear if I have to.

“I’m OK with transitioning into other things, finding a little bit of happiness and joy each day, less colorization of emotions. I’m ready for that.”

So what specifically is on tap? Talk shows? Another book?

Patrick demurs when pressed.

“I think I have definitely big dreams and aspirations for myself, for all my companies, for the kind of emotion I want to have on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “I’m looking forward to a good, easy, happy, calm, joyful, exciting, adventurous life.  If I say I want it, there’s a very good chance that’s what I’ll get.”

In the short-term, there’s hosting an ESPN awards show that will keep her busy through July.

And after that, her schedule will free up just as Green Bay Packers training camp begins for Rodgers, the two-time MVP quarterback.

“I’m thinking I’m going to have plenty of time to write a cookbook in Green Bay,” she said.