LAS VEGAS, NV–This weekend featured a special celebration in the history of a true pioneer. NASCAR kicked off their festivities with a themed weekend honoring Wendell Scott at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, NV. Scott, an Army veteran who served in Europe during World War II, was the first African American driver of NASCAR and the first African American to win a race in the Grand National Series. Friday, March 4th marked the 61st anniversary of great trendsetter’s NASCAR career.
Launching his premier series debut at Piedmont interstate fairgrounds in Spartanburg, SC on March 4, 1961, Wendell Scott finished 17th place in the Grand National contest. A few years later on December 1, 1963, he went on to win a Grand National Series title at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. Scott was not only a driver but a team owner.
Overcoming racism and persistent lack of funding, #34 beat the odds being inducted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame as the first African American driver to win a Cup Series race. Without ever being awarded sponsorships, he reached the pinnacle of his career off determination, guts, perseverance and humility-words from his son Franklin Scott during the NASCAR Hall of Fame event. Confirming his dreams are the fuel that energizes them, Wendell’s family expanded his tradition by commencing the Wendell Scott Foundation connecting students in North Carolina and Virginia to resources like mentoring, STEM skills, and a legacy of leadership.
On Sunday, Franklin was joined by his son Warrick and artist Chuck Styles, while they spoke with media during a press conference regarding Wendell Scott’s attributes and what lies ahead. He commended the virtuoso on his creative work as it depicted a lot of his father the craftsman didn’t even realize. “When you look at the caricature, his hair, his face, his determination. He got it all!” said Franklin. “We love racing. We’re racing family, that’s what we did. My father predicted so much of this. He told me so many times I’m going to get a trophy. There’s gonna be more minorities involved in racing on the highest level. He predicted a lot of this. It makes me shutter to think about the times that we would be riding on old bumpy roads.”
The innovator’s grandson Warrick added “The evolution of Wendell Scott is so important in this sport. My grandfather was for the underdog. His passion was for the underserved, under acknowledged community. With NASCAR being the stem education for us, we will use that to further my grandfather‘s legacy working with youth all around the country.” He stated his grandfather “built the ultimate bridge for diversity and we can see that manifesting right here today.”
All the race cars and trucks including the pace-car had custom decal on them certified by NASCAR. The artwork created by Chuck with Art of Styles LLC (@Chuckstyless) paid homage to the late Wendell Scott. “One of the key features I like to do is have a lot energy with my brush strokes because I believe that the energy that I put into the artwork you are able to feel it. I am thankful that you all felt the energy that I have put into the artwork” Chuck stated. “Thank you to NASCAR for reaching out to me to tie in this new approach to Wendell Scott’s Legacy. I did not know about Wendell Scott and that’s unfortunate. I just recently completed my MLB card collection with TOPPS where I chose historic African American baseball players. So, I was already in the mindset of highlighting some of America’s heroes and sports.”
Xfinity Car driver Jesse Iwuji will be carrying on the Scott Legacy with co-owner former Dallas Cowboys running back and Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. American Legion member and lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserves, Jesse debuted in the NASCAR Infinity Series on Feb. 19 at Daytona. Iwuji has stated he was inspired by Scott and wanted to continue to bring awareness.
“Jesse, you have the opportunity. Just think what Wendell Scott could have done if he had any of the sponsors on your car. Everything we earned went back into the race team and family. He was a great man so you are following in the footsteps of one of the vanguards of the sport and a giant in the racing world. I just want to encourage you to give yourself patience to learn because you’re not going to learn it all in one year”, an emotional gesture from the son of a legend bestowing wisdom and trust into another carrying on the #34 heirloom his father once did.
I met with Art designer Chuck Styles following the press conference to further explore what inspires the artist’s creativity.
Yulanda: What was your inspiration? When did you know that you could draw? When did you find your love of being an artist?
Chuck: You know I think when I was little out of high school was when I actually noticed my gift or took my gift seriously, at the time I was a barber and one of my coworkers saw my talents advised me I could always be a barber but that gift that I have right there don’t waste it you need to invest in that and that’s when I took art seriously.
Yuanda: What do you have going on next?
Chuck: I have some things I’m working on (chuckles). Yes. I’ve worked on James Harden and his Adidas campaign, TOPPS, Hollywood Studios working on If Beale Street could talk, worked on Michael B Jordan’s Superman movie, that might be coming out soon.
Yulanda: It’s an honor and blessing to meet you. Continue creating great art masterpieces.