Hard Driving: The Wendell Scott Story

Hard Driving: The Wendell Scott Story

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by Brian Donovan
     
 

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Hard Driving is the dramatic story of one man’s dogged determination to live the life he loved, and to compete, despite daunting obstacles, at the highest level of his sport.Wendell Scott figured he was signing up for trouble when he became nascar’s version of Jackie Robinson in the segregated 1950s. Some speedways refused to let him race. “

Overview

Hard Driving is the dramatic story of one man’s dogged determination to live the life he loved, and to compete, despite daunting obstacles, at the highest level of his sport.Wendell Scott figured he was signing up for trouble when he became nascar’s version of Jackie Robinson in the segregated 1950s. Some speedways refused to let him race. “Go home, nigger,” spectators yelled. And after a bigoted promoter refused to pay him, Scott appealed directly to the sport’s founder, nascar czar Bill France Sr.France made a promise Scott would never forget – that nascar would never treat him with prejudice.For the next two decades, Scott chased a dream whose fulfillment depended on France backing up that promise. Persevering through crashes, health problems, and money troubles, Scott remained convinced he had the talent to become one of nascar’s best. Hard Driving documents a previously untold chapter in the history of integration, politics, and sports in America. It reveals how France, founder of the multibillion-dollar nascar empire, reneged on his pledge and allowed repeated discrimination against Scott by racing officials and other powerful figures. It details France’s alliances with leading segregationist politicians such as George Wallace, the reluctance of auto executives such as Lee Iacocca to sponsor a black driver; and the inspiring support Scott received from white drivers such as nascar champions Ned Jarrett and Richard Petty, who admired his skill and tenacity.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
One of the Year's Top Ten African American History Titles. — Booklist

"Hard Driving is an almost bigger-than-life account of Scott, NASCAR's first and only black driver to compete on a regular basis. . . . Donovan tells it like it was. . . . A copy of Brian Donovan's masterpiece should be in every library in the country, inculding schools. No value can be placed on its worth, not only from the stock car racing side, but from the black history aspect. . . . The only down side of this release is the fact Wendell Scott never had the opportunity to read it. Read it. You will be glad you did. And I'll add this little warning. The last part may bring a tear or two to your eyes." — Morris Stephenson in The Franklin News-Post

"The book is superb and features terrific reporting. . . . But perhaps the most noteworthy words in the book were those muttered as Scott, fittingly, had his head under the hood of a car. 'I come along too soon,' he said. 'Too soon.'" — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Whatever Robinson's travails, nobody ever tried to kill him on the baseball diamond.... Some of the villains in the Scott story are the saints and heroes of the sport: Baker, Banjo Mathews, Enoch Staley, Bruton Smith. Bill France Sr., NASCAR's founder, promised Scott that as long as he held a NASCAR license he would be treated fairly, but that never happened.

On the other hand, Scott had his defenders and supporters, drivers like Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty and Fireball Roberts. These, some of the sport's good guys, really were.

There is also the suggestion that NASCAR let Scott race only as long as he wasn't too competitive. Donovan makes a persuasive case that automakers gave Scott just enough help to stay in the show without giving him enough to win. Unwittingly, perhaps, Scott became the star of his own awful automotive minstrel show, a black back marker for the amusement of white fans.

He always believed that if he could get into a competitive car, he had the talent to beat the sport's stars. Maybe, maybe not. One thing seems beyond dispute: Nobody ever wanted it worse than Wendell Scott." — The Los Angeles Times

"Donovan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who often wrote about prejudice. He also became an amateur racer, and clearly warms to his subject. But Donovan doesn't sugarcoat the unseemly side of Scott's character, from the harsh way he treats his family to his affairs with other women.

So is this book for non-racing fans? Yes, although I think hard-core may enjoy it more. That'd be a shame. Scott's story deserves to be told, and Donovan tells it well." — The Charlotte Observer

"Donovan has written a book that is both a history and a sports classic." — Detroit Free Press

"A fascinating book . . . a wonderful story about a really interesting guy." — Toronto Star

"The gripping story of a fascinating, brave man who deserves serious recognition for his solitary accomplishment. . . . Donovan has produced one of the most compelling sports biographies of this or any year. A must-read for NASCAR fans." — (starred review) Booklist

"Donovan shows how Scott's career was every bit as ground-breaking as Jackie Robinson's feat of breaking baseball's color barrier. Perhaps even more. . . ." — The Tampa Tribune

"In this excellent biography, Donovan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper reporter and seasoned race car driver, recounts the overlooked life of Wendell Scott, the one-time Danville, Va., moonshine runner who broke the color barrier in stock-car racing in 1952 and competed for more than 20 years in a sport dominated by Southern whites... Donovan's writing is well-paced and measured, clearly depicting the complex atmosphere of race relations in the segregated South. His extensive reporting, including interviews with Scott before he died in 1990, combined with his descriptive and enjoyable prose about racing, make this book a deeply compelling story." — (starred review) Publishers Weekly

"In Hard Driving, Brian Donovan has given us a beautifully insightful look at Wendell Scott—a vital NASCAR pioneer—that’s exceedingly well-written, and researched with the kind of zeal and expertise necessary for a tale that covers so rocky a road. Talk about a necessary sports biography. Hard Driving is unquestionably a winner." — Robert Edelstein, author of Full Throttle: The Life and Fast Times of NASCAR Legend Curtis Turner

"Brian Donovan has written a surprisingly moving and powerful account of Wendell Scott’s utterly American Odyssey. It offers a window into a world not that far removed from our own, as we struggle still to judge each person, as Dr. King said, on the content of their character–not the color of their skin." – Ken Burns, filmmaker, winner of three Emmy Awards, including one for Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson

"Wendell Scott didn’t set out to be a civil rights pioneer. He just wanted to race. His determination against all odds not only broke racial barriers in a Southern white sport at a time when few would have thought it possible but changed the way many racing fans thought about race. As a long-time admirer of Scott, it’s my hope that this book, splendidly researched and written, brings him the widespread recognition that he has long deserved." – Jerry Bledsoe, New York Times #1 bestseller and author of The World’s Number-One, Flat-Out, All-Time Great Stock Car Racing Book

"Wendell Scott was to NASCAR what Jackie Robinson was to baseball. The difference was that Robinson played in liberal Brooklyn and had the backing of Branch Rickey, and Scott raced in the segregated South and had—nobody. The hard-working, dauntless Scott, like Robinson, should be a national hero. Until that day, he has Brian Donovan’s moving biography as his legacy." – Peter Golenbock, author of Miracle: Bobby Allison and the Saga of the Alabama Gang

"Finally a NASCAR book that doesn't leave the reader feeling like a redneck hillbilly. Donovan's Hard Driving is an American history book that uses stock car racing to educate about the segregationist South. Driver Wendell Scott overcame more hardship than any 10 white NASCAR drivers combined. Donovan has done an amazing investigative reporting job ferreting out the stories and details that give this story life." – Tom Cotter, Road & Track contributing editor and author of The Cobra in the Barn

Publishers Weekly

In this excellent biography, Donovan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper reporter and seasoned race car driver, recounts the overlooked life of Wendell Scott, the one-time Danville, Va., moonshine runner who broke the color barrier in stock-car racing in 1952 and competed for more than 20 years in a sport dominated by Southern whites. Scott, despite never having the backing of big automakers to put him in a top-notch car, finished many NASCAR races and season standings in the top 10. He won a Grand National event in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1963, a race in which officials initially tried to deny Scott the trophy because it meant he would be entitled to kiss the white race queen. Scott survived with soft-spoken manners, avoiding confrontation with those who resented him by driving conservatively to avoid collisions that would have raised the ire of white drivers and fans. He was an excellent mechanic who cobbled together subpar engines as best he could and often lived on the edge of bankruptcy. Donovan's writing is well-paced and measured, clearly depicting the complex atmosphere of race relations in the segregated South. His extensive reporting, including interviews with Scott before he died in 1990, combined with his descriptive and enjoyable prose about racing, make this book a deeply compelling story. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Wendell Scott broke the color barrier in stock car racing in the early 1950s, when the sport was firmly rooted in the South and America was still largely segregated. The racing establishment did little to encourage Scott and at times was antagonistic toward him. Unlike other sports, in which teams or organizations supported those crossing the racial divide, Scott regularly faced blatant bigotry, countless injustices, and chronic underfunding for his cars. Yet he persisted owing to a strong will and considerable talents as a driver and mechanic. Ultimately, he became a fixture in NASCAR racing in the 1960s and was not only popular with many fans but also achieved what by most measures would be an admirable racing record. This work by race driver and journalist Donovan is a thoroughly researched account of Scott's 22-year racing career, compiled from published sources as well as interviews with Scott, family members, and racing cohorts. What makes this compelling is the human drama interwoven with the racing narrative. We learn, for example, of the passive demeanor Scott felt he had to maintain around the racetrack to keep from inflaming any hostility around him, and of the rage he felt and acted upon whenever he thought members of his family were endangered. This important book is highly recommended for both motorsports and civil rights history collections.
—David Van de Streek

Kirkus Reviews
Pulitzer Prize-winning Newsday reporter Donovan, now retired and a race-car driver, follows the hard-luck career of a man who challenged NASCAR's racial barrier in the 1950s. Growing up in the Deep South, Wendell Scott parlayed his early years as a police-dodging moonshine runner to become one of NASCAR's best, most reliable drivers. If he didn't finish with roomfuls of trophies to show for his two decades as a driver, it's only because he labored under incredible disadvantages, most notably a lack of financial support from either NASCAR officials or the major car companies that poured millions into the sport. He was forced to drive a beat-up old car that he often had to repair mid-race-and that was when he was even allowed to the starting line. In the South, where stock-car and auto racing had its roots, Scott was routinely banned from entering racetracks like Darlington and Talladega. When he was allowed on the track, bigoted drivers often intentionally wrecked him while fans harassed him with racial slurs. His fortitude and persistence knew no bounds. Using his sons and friends as pit crew, he competed for more than 20 years until a wreck nearly killed him in 1973. It was typical of Scott's bad luck that the wreck occurred in a brand-new race car that it took him 11 years to pay for. Donovan does an excellent job recounting the numerous roadblocks that were placed in Scott's way. Even when he won his only Grand National race (now the Sprint Cup series), officials initially awarded the checkered flag to someone else; he didn't receive his first-place trophy until a month later. Following the many other races in Scott's long career may prove less fascinating for the casual reader, butDonovan provides additional interest with his portraits of such major players of the period as George Wallace and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. A memorable tale of an unsung American hero, and a worthy history lesson as well. Agent: Robert Guinsler/Sterling Lord Literistic

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781586421601
Publisher:
Steerforth Press
Publication date:
05/12/2009
Pages:
328
Sales rank:
1,192,415
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Brian Donovan, a former Newsday investigative reporter, has won more than forty journalism awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and Columbia University’s Paul Tobenkin Award for reporting on racial and ethnic intolerance. Driving on the EMRA Vanderbilt Cup circuit, he has won a season championship, as well as a track championship at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway and dozens of races from Canada to West Virginia. He gained exclusive access to Wendell Scott over the last fourteen months of his life and interviewed more than two hundred individuals to capture this epic, previously untold American story. He lives on Long Island.

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Hard Driving: The Wendell Scott Story 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is written so that you see and feel what Wendell was working through. Wendell Scott was a pioneer NSCAR driver. He paved the way for diversity. Just this year, he was entered into the NSCAR hall of fall. Well deserved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ente More than 1 year ago
The "Wendell Scott"-Story was long-time overdue. It shows the hard way and struggle and sometimes success of a real under-dog in motorracing. Looking into the past of NASCAR-Racing,guys like Petty, Allison,Baker,Roberts,Yarborough,Parsons...stood always in the limelight,so it's great to have a book now on the market,which tells the story of a real under-dog!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.