Tag Archives: Racing History
“I was a race driver before I ever hit the track,” said Wendell Scott, the first African American to race NASCAR’s Grand National circuit, in a 1982 interview with the Richmond Times Dispatch. As a moonshine runner, Wendell Scott expertly skirted police on the winding country roads surrounding his Danville, Virginia home. In his own words, Scott proclaimed himself “the greatest moonshine runner of them all, dusting off deputies in a 1946 Packard loaded with jars full of white lightnin’ on a run between Danville, Va., and Charlotte, N.C.”[i]
During prohibition, bootleggers started modifying their cars to go faster and handle better than the cars pursuing them. Though prohibition ended in 1933, the South’s love of moonshine persisted, and so the time-honored custom of outrunning the police to transport illicit goods for profit continued. It was out of the necessity for a speedy vehicle that stock car racing was born. “The need to prove who had the fastest car,” Suzanne Wise explains, “led to weekend races at tracks carved out of pastures and corn fields.”[ii]
And it was via moonshine running that Scott found his way to becoming a bonafide stock car racer. In the 1950s, the Dixie Circuit, a competitor of NASCAR, in an attempt to attract larger audiences to its Danville events, came up with the idea of adding a black driver to its field of exclusively white competitors. Local authorities in Danville were asked who the fastest black driver in town was. The immediate answer was a resounding “Wendell Scott,” followed up by something along the lines of, “We’ve been chasing him for years.”[iii]
Running moonshine provided Scott with the skill he needed as a driver, but his mechanic’s knowledge would prove invaluable during his race career as well. As a child, Scott helped … read more »
As Richmond International Raceway gears up to host late season NASCAR races, it seems a perfect opportunity to celebrate the recent donation to the Library of Virginia of a complete collection of Inside Motorsports (IMS), which began as a weekly newspaper devoted to all forms of auto racing, from NASCAR and dirt track to IndyCar and drag racing.
Thanks to its former editor, Jon Paulette, who generously donated his own collection, the Library of Virginia is the only library with a complete run of this unique title.
Inside Motorsports, published in Wytheville from 1993-2001, started as the popularity of auto racing was skyrocketing. “More, perhaps, than in another sport,” publisher Scott Sparrow wrote in the introductory issue of IMS, “fans have access to the competitors. They mingle and talk with both the obscure and the famous. Their bond is the American’s love affair with the automobile.”
Fan accessibility to the drivers and crews and this common bond between them, the love affair with the automobile, created a large and fiercely devoted fan base and IMS was there to serve. On the front page of its premier issue, dated March 31, 1993, NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki is pictured with the caption “Kulwicki Eyes Repeat at Food City 500.” It was a sad coincidence that Kulwicki, the 1992 NASCAR champion, would die in a plane crash the very next day, April 1, on his way to the Food City 500 in Bristol, Tennessee.
While IMS began as a weekly covering a variety of motorsports, it eventually became a monthly dedicated solely to drag racing. “As a weekly,” Paulette explained, “the pub was a solid regional paper that eventually grew into something much larger. Was it a competitor for National … read more »