‘Grit and determination’: NASCAR trailblazer Wendell Scott honored with downtown mural

Two men admire the newly unveiled Wendell Scott mural painted by Jennifer White and Lucretia Torva, designed to educate and inspire, highlighting the fearless accomplishments of Scott. (Photo by Amanda Valle/Cronkite News)

Devin Del Palacio, board president for Tolleson Union High School District, stands in front of the Wendell Scott mural at Phoenix Elementary School Warehouse. (Photo by Amanda Valle/Cronkite News)

Jerry J. McPherson, Director of Economic Empowerment for the Greater Phoenix Urban League, speaks to the media about the accomplishments of a NASCAR trailblazer. (Photo by Amanda Valle/Cronkite News)

Crowd gathers together to see the unveiling of the Shining Light Foundation’s Black History Mural Project of Wendell Scott. (Photo by Amanda Valle/Cronkite Sports)

PHOENIX – Phoenix is known for its array of murals sprinkled throughout its downtown streets. Recently, the Shining Light foundation created a Black History Mural Project honoring Black historical figures with 28 new murals across Phoenix representing the 28 days of Black History Month.

The newest pop of color to the downtown walls includes an image commemorating a NASCAR Hall of Famer, the late Wendell Scott.

Scott paved the way for diversity in a sport that lacked color as the first Black driver to race full time in the NASCAR Cup Series in 1961, and the first to win a race in 1964.

Shining Light Foundation’s Black History Mural Project honoring NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott. Scott was the first Black driver to race full time in the NASCAR Cup Series and first to win a race. (Photo by Amanda Valle/Cronkite News)

However, after his win in Jacksonville, Florida, the trophy was awarded to the second place white driver, Buck Baker. Almost 60 years later, at Daytona International Speedway’s Cup Series race in August, Scott’s family was at last awarded a replica of the trophy from the ‘64 race as NASCAR took a stand with diversity in 2021. Scott passed away in 1990 at 69.

While Scott faced many battles through his racing career, the Hall of Famer never saw himself as an outcast. “I am no different from most other people who’re doing what they like to do,” Scott told NASCAR.

This timeless piece will not only serve as a poignant backdrop but also as a point of education for youth about an unknown pioneer to many.

“We’re all familiar with Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and the pioneers they were in their respective sports, but not many are familiar with the story of Wendell Scott.” said Devin Del Palacio, the board president of the Tolleson Union High School District. “That is what I am most excited about, that for generations our youth will be able to walk past this mural and be inspired by his grit and determination to be a champion.”

The mural of the beloved race car driver can be found by the Phoenix Elementary School Warehouse, on the corner of Grant Street and 1st Street in downtown Phoenix.

Amanda Valle(she/her/hers)
Sports Digital Producer, Phoenix

Amanda Valle expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Valle, who has interned as a production assistant with the Arizona Cardinals and was a color commentator for ASU softball, is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.