Friday, February 3, 2023

RETRO: Eight Racers who Broke NASCAR’s Color Barrier

Which is four times more than the Pathetic amount who’ve raced in the Indianapolis 500!


Although Wendell Scott’s no longer the winningest African American driver in NASCAR’s top tier Monster Energy Cup series. With that Honour going to Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr, whose won twice as many NASCAR Cup races. Nor is Wendell the first African American to Start a NASCAR race. Although He may have been the first to receive the necessary license to compete? Reportedly in 1953.


Nonetheless, Scott is definitely the most prolific, with a massive 495 Starts made over twelve years, between 1961-73. Scoring 147 Top 10 Finishes, nearly one third of All entries!


As Scott, who never had top flight equipment or any major sponsors, had a best finish of sixth Overall in 1966. During a streak of four consecutive years of finishing in the Top 10 Overall! Before a Horrific accident at Talladega ended His racing career.


Yet how well do you know the other seven African American’s to have contested a top tier NASCAR race? Be that Grand National, Winston Cup, Nextel Cup Sprint Cup or today’s Monster Energy cup racing series.


On July 31, 1955, Elias Bowie entered the NASCAR Bay Meadows Racetrack’s Grand National race in San Mateo, California. Where this Thoroughbred Horse Racing facility hosted NASCAR between 1954-56.


As Bowie became the first ever African American to contest a Grand National event and claimed a prize of $90.00 for finishing 28th in His 1953 Cadillac. As this would be Bowie’s one and only Grand National start.


“Watching,” Err listening to Greased Lightning. Before the movie began, the TCM Studio Pundit Ben Mankiewickz briefly mentioned the name Charlie Scott, having competed in a Grand National race before Wendell Scott.


As Charlie, not Wendall, who’ve got zero relationship. Made His lone Grand National start in the 1956 Daytona Beach race. Qualifying His Chrysler 300 14th out of a massive 76 Car field! And finished a very respectable 19th.



Another of the unknown African American Stock Car Drivers to Mwah was George Wiltshire. Not to be Cornfuzed with the Actor named George Wiltshire who Died in 1976. As the Wiltshire racing driver apparently made a Baker’s Dozen starts. Mostly in the USAC Stock Car series between 1971 and 1982, driving for His own team.


Yet Wiltshire became the fourth African American to race in NASCAR’s top tier Winston Cup series upon starting in the 1971 Islit 250, in Islit, New Yor, on July 15th.


As the Islit Speedway just so happens to hold the Honour of being NASCAR’s Shortest ever racetrack competed on, at a miniscule distance of 0200 mile! With the ’71 event being it’s last event du to NASCAR cancelling All races shorter than 250 miles. (400K)


Interestingly, there’s two Black Racecar Drivers listed as having competed in this race, which “The King,” Richard Petty thoroughly dominated. Leading Flag-to-Flag from Pole position, albeit only 230 laps were completed during to a scoring error.


The No. 34 of Wendell Scott started 17th in His 1969 ford. While George Wiltshire in His No. 89 1970 Plymouth lined-up P29. Scott is credited with finishing a respectable 11th, whilst Wiltshire failed to finish the race, and was classified P28.


Wiltshire’s second and final Winston Cup start came four years later at the 1975 Purolator 500 at Pocono Raceway, where His dodge Charger Done Blown Up after only 15 laps!


The fourth and final driver’s name of these eight Bold Men I’d never heard of before was the seemingly obscure Randy Bethea who Hails from Johnson city, Tennessee. As Bethea made a solitary Winston Cup start at the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, 1975. Yet like his contemporary Wiltshire above. Bethea’s motor went Kuh-Blamoe! As Bethea retired on lap 251 of 400 and was classified 33rd.


Arguably the third best known or most notable on this list has to be Willy T. Ribbs. Who for Mwah, I was more aware of His Open Wheel Racing and Sports Cars accomplishments. As Ribbs was the first African American to compete in the Indianapolis 500 in 1991. For which as of 2023 still has only two African Americans to have ever done so…


Ribbs antics of dancing atop the roof of His racecar after winning is legendous’, as I believe He was doing His Mohammed Ali shuffle tribute? With Ribbs driving for both thee “Cat in the Hat” Jack Roush and Dan Gurney in SCCA Trans Am and IMSA GTO competition. With Ribbs winning a total of 17 Trans Am and 10 IMSA GTO races during His career.


Willy T is also the first African American to ever test a formula 1 car, doing so for the eponymous Uncle Bernaughty’, aka Bernie Ecclestone. When Ecclestone was then the F1 Team Owner of Brabham at Estoril in 1986.


Humpy Wheeler Hired Ribbs to race in the 1978 World 600, but Ribbs elected to forgo the event after allegedly receiving Death Threats, and His ride was given to somebody named Dale Earnhardt instead…


Willy T then made the first of His three NASCAR Winston Cup starts at North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1986, where He scored His best Cup result of P22. As Ribbs would contest a total of three races that year for DiGard Motorsports.


As I’d say that the recent Documentary titled Uppity describes Ribbs personality perfectly! Since I always forget that this Brash, Outspoken retired racer once was suspended for a month by IMSA following a 1987 race at Portland International Raceway for punching Scott Pruett!


Two Decades later, Bill Lester made His only two starts in the Nextel Cup Series at Atlanta and Michigan Speedways, with a best finish of 32nd.


Lester who earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1984, predominantly spent His Roundy round career in the Craftsman Trucks series, where He made a total of 143 starts. Making His Trucks Debut at Portland International Raceway in 2000.


Lester also raced for several years in Sports Cars. Mostly in Grand Am competition, where He became the first African American Driver to win a Sports Car race in May of 2011 at Virginia International Raceway. Winning the GT Class aboard an Autohaus Racing Camaro with Co-Driver Jordan Taylor.


Then I’d say it came full circle, when Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. almost did the unthinkable in only His fifth career NASCAR Cup start at Daytona! Which is when I first became aware of Wallace, our eighth African American Cup driver, who audaciously finished a close Runner-up to Austin Dillon in the 2018 Day-Toner’ 500 driving for Richard Petty Motorsports! (RPM) Aboard it’s iconic No. 43.


I say Full circle since it was that very same Richard Petty, a la “The King” who Wendell Scott had passed for His lone Cup victory 55 years earlier! Although the scoring Error wasn’t rectified until two hours later after everybody had left the racetrack…


As Wallace drove for RPM thru the 2020 season before getting to compete in First-rate equipment at the newly formed 23XI Racing Team co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin.


As even better yet, Wallace’s maiden Cup victory came in the Deep South at Talladega in 2021. And then He claimed His second Monster Energy Cup victory last year at Kansas in the team’s second entry, the No. 45 entry which began the year with Kurth Busch as it’s driver. As Wallace and substitute driver ty Gibbs swaped racecars since the #45 was still eligible for the Owners Championship…