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Posted July 16, 2008
A Solid Book & a Story That Needs Telling
I'm not a huge NASCAR fan. I feel compelled to state that up front. I've watched some over the years, and when it was more of a regional sport and the cars looked more like something you could actually buy, it was more fun for me. As NASCAR has increased in popularity, it has decreased in interest for me, personally. After reading Donovan's biography of Wendell Scott, I was left with the same set of feelings I had when I visited the Negro League Museum in Kansas City. First, an appreciation for the stories of what Men of Passion were willing to do to chase their dreams and do the things they loved. The stories of Men and the inspiration that could be had from their stories of overcoming overwhelming odds. Secondly, I feel shame. Shame that other white people could, would and did some of the awful things to another person simply because of their color. Wendell Scott never set out to be a trailblazer or make a racial statement. Wendell Scott wanted to drive race cars for a living. That he chose to do this in the Red Neck world of NASCAR, in the Deep South with Jim Crow in full flower is a testament to his desire to do what he wanted to do. Donovan does a fine job of showing the trials and tribulations that Scott faced, the overt racism both in and out of NASCAR, and the good and less than good people that helped or hindered Scott as he chased his dream. He also shows a side of NASCAR, both past and present to some degree, that they would rather not have aired. Namely that NASCAR was racist, that promises made to Scott by founder Bill France weren't honored, that NASCAR did nothing to ensure that Scott was treated fairly. He won a race in Jacksonville, and to avoid him getting a peck from the track Beauty Queen 'naturally a white woman', they jobbed him out of the victory celebration at the time. It was later awarded to him, with no fanfare, and blown off to a scoring error. A fiction NASCAR still stands behind. Wendell Scott was hardly perfect, but who of us is? He was the first of four '4!' Black Drivers to have driven in NASCAR races, and while never a huge winner, he was a competitive driver for quite some time. Donovan presents not only the story of Wendell Scott, but the story of NASCAR, Civil Rights struggles, political skulduggery and institutional racism. He addresses the fictions of the 'Greased Lightning' movie starring Richard Pryor and Scott's lack of concern for accuracy. He paints a solid picture of a man trying to do something he loved, and how he overcame and dealt with obstacles. A highly recommended biography and history book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.