Long: Journey for Wendell Scott’s family ends with a kiss (VIDEO)

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Jessie Barksdale never knew Wendell Scott, but he traveled from Virginia to be at Scott’s induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Raymond Arnold Jr., who once pulled a carburetor out of his 1962 Chevrolet Impala and gave it to Scott to race in Spartanburg, S.C., also didn’t want to miss this moment Friday.

On a night that left 16-time Most Popular Driver Bill Elliott awestruck, had an ailing Fred Lorenzen smiling more than his children had seen in some time and featured the inductions of Joe Weatherly and Rex White, Scott’s moment was the most meaningful, as he became the first African-American in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Critics will question his credentials – one victory in 495 starts is not worthy of inclusion they’ll say – but Scott competed in the Jim Crow era where he faced death threats, catcalls and other forms of injustice his competitors did not. Scott’s induction was as much for his determination as for his record.

When the moment was at hand, when the Hall of Fame ring was before Wendell Scott Jr., as he stood on stage with his brother Frank, Wendell Scott Jr. kissed it.

“I kissed the ring for Daddy and Mommy because they couldn’t do it themselves,’’ he said.

His father died in 1990. His mother was not healthy enough to travel to the ceremony.

Others were there. The Scott family said more than 100 people came to witness their father’s moment, some traveling from California, Florida and New York. They wanted to share in a moment the family had waited on for so long.

Family members often came to Charlotte when the Hall of Fame class was announced, not knowing, but hoping their father’s name would be called. It wasn’t the first five times, leaving them disappointed but determined to return the next year and try again.

“The Bible teaches that before a person can have honor, they must first have integrity and humility,’’ Frank Scott said in his speech. “In addition, another one of his great attributes was perseverance. There were two words that were forbidden for us to use growing up in the Scott household: Those words were can’t and never.’’

So the family returned to the Hall each year waiting for their father to be honored.

The reward came Friday with Scott becoming one of 30 men in the Hall of Fame.

Among those there was Barksdale. He’s never been to a race, but he made the 150-mile trip.

“I wanted to be a part of this,’’ he said.

Moments after he had his photo taken next to a picture of Scott, Arnold did the same with family members.

Arnold related how when he got married, he and his wife planned to go to Washington, D.C., for their honeymoon. They never got past Danville, Va. They stopped to visit Scott and Arnold spent the week working on Scott’s car. When the work was finished, it was time to return to South Carolina.

Scott was off to another race, often facing challenges most could not comprehend.

Wendell Scott Jr. recalls the challenge of crossing the track in front of the stands in many places.

“He told us to listen to the fans that we don’t hear,’’ Wendell Scott Jr. said of his father’s advice. “Those were the fans that really supported us. Over the years there came to be more of them than we realized.’’

Frank Scott highlighted that temperament at the end of his speech about his father.

“We must carry his legacy to even greater heights with the same selflessness, honor, integrity, humility and perseverance that were his trademark,’’ Frank Scott said. “Let me conclude with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: He said the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of control and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. Wendell L. Scott, Sr., stood the test of time.’’

And will forever be remembered in NASCAR’s Hall of Fame.

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

James Black/IndyCar
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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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