In 1963, a Virginia native named Wendell Scott became the first African-American man to win a race at NASCAR’s highest level of competition. That feat was not repeated for another 58 years, when Bubba Wallace took home his first NASCAR Cup Series title at Talladega Superspeedway in 2021.
Yet somehow, Scott’s legacy isn’t nearly as well known as that of other pioneering athletes like Jackie Robinson or Arthur Ashe. Even for those who grew up with NASCAR in the background of their childhood like Lion Forge Entertainment founder and filmmaker Dave Steward II, who vividly remembers the time in the 90s and early 2000s when the racing world saw a boom in popularity.
As Dave Steward II entered adulthood, his father, businessman David L. Steward, was developing a professional relationship with NASCAR, supporting and spearheading a number of diversity and inclusion initiatives. That relationship eventually led to the elder Steward’s company World Wide Technology purchasing the naming rights to the Gateway International Raceway. On June 4, the Madison, Illinois motorsports facility–now known as World Wide Technology Raceway– will host the NASCAR Cup Series’ Enjoy Illinois 300 for the second consecutive year.
It wasn’t until Steward joined his father as a supporter of NASCAR and started working with drivers like Wallace and CRAFTSMAN Truck Series rookie, Rajah Caruth, that he got a chance to really learn about Wendell Scott’s groundbreaking accomplishments both on and off the track.
Years later, a chance encounter with Scott’s grandson, Warrick, set the foundation for a series of creative projects being made by Steward II’s Lion Forge Entertainment that will introduce this important part of sports history to a whole new generation of NASCAR fans, in collaboration with the newly-minted Wendell Scott Ventures.
“There’s a kids book that’ll be coming out later this year through our publishing company,” says Dave Steward II. “We’re also working on an animated show for kids, kind of loosely based off of Wendell Scott and how his childhood paved the way for him to become the legend that he was.”
Steward II, Warrick Scott and his father Frank Scott are also working on a live-action limited dramatic series that will offer viewers much more insight than Richard Pryor’s 1977 Greased Lighting, a fictionalized recounting of Wendell Scott’s life that downplayed a lot of the systemic obstacles he faced and completely rewrote his historical NASCAR win.
“We wanted to do something a little bit longer for him that could cover not just his history as a NASCAR driver, but his time running moonshine, and the fact that he was one of the first Black team owners out there with others racing for him; and his mechanical prowess as well.”
In a sense, Steward II and the Scott family are taking up the baton from NASCAR, which has spent the past few years making sure Wendell Scott receives his flowers for his contributions to the sport and the ongoing legacy he created in racing history.
Wendell Scott was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999 and into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015. And in 2021, the organization honored his legacy and pioneering win by presenting the Scott family with a replica of the trophy he was denied in 1963 in front of more than 100,000 fans at the Daytona International Speedway.
Dave Steward II also hopes that, by shining a light on the road that Wendell Scott paved, more young Black drivers will be encouraged to explore the growing number of pathways to careers and success at NASCAR, whether on the track, in the pits or at the offices.