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Wendell Scott enters NASCAR HOF for more than one reason

When Wendell Scott’s NASCAR career is discussed it is inevitably said that he had one win, and with that one win at Jacksonville in 1963 he became the first African American driver to win a NASCAR race. Wrong. Wendell Scott won at least 128 races at local tracks long before he started his premier series (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) career. Scott wasn’t just the “black driver with a win.” He was a champion and a fierce competitor who earned the respect of his fellow drivers.

wendell scott v2Based upon the strength of his lifetime stats, Scott will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, January 30, along with other NASCAR greats Bill Elliott, Fred Lorenzen, Joe Weatherly, and Rex White.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact about Scott is that when he began his premier series career he was 40 years old. Scott brought along his tenacity and grit from the local tracks to big time racing. In his 13-year career he managed 495 starts, which ranks him 37th on NASCAR’s all time list. During that time, Scott amassed 147 top 10s, 20 top 5s and one win. He also won the pole at Savannah, GA, in 1962 that set the dirt track record for all ½ mile tracks.

Prior to his racing career, Scott, like many of his contemporaries, served his country in World War II in the U.S. Army. There he worked in the motor pool for three years, honing his mechanical skills, which would later serve him well in his racing career.

1271360250-NASCAR-Hall-of-Fame-Logo-Full-Color1Following the war, Scott returned home to Danville, VA, and took a job as a cab driver, thus continuing his work around cars. Soon Scott began his racing career. According to a story in the News & Advance (Lynchburg, Va.), “Scott’s racing career began at the Danville Fairgrounds in 1952 and from there, he moved his way up through the ranks. He won 128 races in the hobby, amateur, and modified ranks.”

Scott ran in both the NASCAR Sportsman Division (NASCAR Xfinity Series) as well as the Modified class, and ranked in the top 10 nationally in both. He accomplished this while racing against the likes of Ralph Earnhardt, Cotton Owens, Ned Jarrett, and Fireball Roberts.

In 1959, Scott won 22 races, besting the tough competition at tracks such as Waynesboro, Danville, Zion’s Cross, Roanoke, Tidewater, and others. He also won both the track championship at Southside Speedway in Richmond, VA, and the state NASCAR Sportsman Division championship that year.

1964, when Scott was 43 years old, was his best Cup year statistically. That year Scott started 56 races and had one win, eight top 5s and 25 top 10s. That’s a year that would make any driver proud.

As Scott earned his stripes, he became one of the guys earning respect and building friendships with fellow drivers. Richard Petty, Crew Chief Dale Inman, and others looked after Scott, providing him with parts and pieces to make sure he could compete each week.

Like many of the great teams of the time, racing was a family affair, and it was no different for the Scotts. Wendell’s family played a role back home in the shop and in the pits. Sons Wendell, Jr. and Frankie spent their time under the hood, building engines and parts during non-racing days and pitting the car on race day.

(Wendell Scott, Jr., and I have had several conversations about his dad. Some were good stories, some were not. But Wendell Jr. was always proud of how his dad was able to earn the respect of the greatest drivers in the world.)

In Scott’s racing days, restaurants were primarily “whites only” and when a proprietor attempted to throw Scott out, one of his fellow drivers would typically say, “if you are not going to serve Wendell, then you won’t be serving any of us.” And that was that – he was one of the guys.

Long before the NASCAR Hall of Fame recognized Scott, there was musician and fellow Danville native, Mojo Nixon, who wrote and recorded The Ballad of Wendell Scott. Mojo, who also hosts a weekly radio show called Manifold Destiny on Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio, forever honored the driver in the 1980s:

“No sponsors or a whole lot of money/ sure did make us proud / Wendell Wendell Wendell Scott /Drive so fast he couldn’t stop /Wendell Wendell / He’s my man / He a stock car driving man!” (Take a listen here: The Ballad of Wendell Scott)

While Scott’s win at Jacksonville was momentous, it has actually obscured many of his other accomplishments. Scott’s tough but smart driving was his hallmark, and was not unlike the driving styles of Alan Kulwicki in the 1980s and Jeff Burton in recent years.

The number of wins a driver has cannot be the standard for induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame – there are only 12 that have 50 or more premier series wins, making it a pretty small club. So the Voting Committee wisely evaluates each driver’s entire body of work and his or her overall impact on the sport. When you look at Wendell Scott’s body of work and what he still means to the sport today, he stands tall among NASCAR’s greats.

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Ramsey Poston is the architect of the NASCAR Hall of Fame nominating and voting process and is President of Tuckahoe Strategies. (www.TuckahoeStrategies.com)

Press Freedom is Essential for Democracy Worldwide

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Thomas Jefferson


It was an interesting week for press freedom.  In Paris, 12 people at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were murdered in a terrorist attack by radical Muslims.  The terrorists struck during the daily staff meeting and took the lives of the newspaper’s editor, four Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 1.51.02 PMcartoonists, an economist, a columnist, the receptionists, security guards and a visitor.
The publication is stridently irreverent and often pokes fun at anyone including Islamic leaders.  Upon leaving the scene the terrorists reportedly shouted, ‘We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad.  We have killed Charlie Hebdo!”  The motive was clear: silence the media.

Meanwhile, less than 50 miles from Washington, D.C., Kirby Delauter, a local politician in Frederick, Maryland threatened reporter Bethany Rodgers with a lawsuit if she used his name in her newspaper without authorization.  In a Facebook exchange, Councilman Delauter accused Rodgers of writing a “hit piece.”  He concluded by writing, “Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an Attorney.  Your rights stop where mine start.”  Mr. Delauter’s motive was clear: silence the media.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre was tragic and part of a global threat while the Delauter situation was stupid and comical.  Let’s be clear, there is no comparison between the two scenarios — except for one: the attempt to silence the media.  It is a reminder that even here in the United States, the “land of the free,” that press freedom is occasionally seen as a nuisance and often challenged.

Press freedom is the basis of Democracy.  We cannot have one without the other.  The expression of facts, ideas, and opinions are the ingredients of a free people.  Local reporters such as Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post play an especially important role.  They are the people who are keeping local government in check.  They are the ones taking the time to sit through boring county council meetings when no one else is looking.  They churn through mountains of legal filings and keep a check upon what is happening at the courthouse.  The service that journalists provide are as important as the leaders we elect.

They are also endangered.  As media budgets plummet, the idea of being a journalist has become less and less appealing to the younger generation.  It’s hard work, long hours and little pay.   Journalists are also increasingly in the line of fire.  The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 1,109 journalists have been murdered since 1992. These journalists put their lives on the line for our democracy.

We won’t always agree with what is being reported in the media.  Reporters make mistakes, they get the facts wrong, they sometimes intentionally embellish and sometimes they flat out lie.  It’s the same as with any industry, its not perfect. However, overall, the media strive to do what is right and protect democracies.  All of us living in democracies around the world need to do our part to support the media and let freedom ring.

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Ramsey Poston is president of Tuckahoe Strategies, a strategic communications firm based on the Eastern Shore.

New York Times: Ramsey Poston comments on Kurt Busch Allegations

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Nascar’s Kurt Busch Is Focus of Domestic Assault Inquiry

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(online version can be found at: New York Times )

Add Nascar to the list of sports organizations now having to manage domestic violence accusations against one of their stars. The police in Dover, Del., released a statement Friday saying that Kurt Busch, the 2004 Cup champion and the driver of the No. 41 Chevrolet for the high-profile Stewart-Haas Racing team, was under investigation on suspicion of domestic assault.

The Associated Press reported that the accusation had been made by Patricia Driscoll, the president of the Armed Forces Foundation in Washington, D.C., and a former girlfriend of Busch’s, and that the episode had taken place Sept. 26 in Busch’s motor home before a race at Dover International Speedway. The police indicated that the accusation had been made Wednesday.
Busch, who is in Avondale, Ariz., preparing for a Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, denied the charge through a lawyer, Rusty Hardin.
“This allegation is a complete fabrication by a woman who has refused to accept the end of a relationship, and Mr. Busch vehemently denies her allegations in every respect,” Hardin said in a statement.
Busch participated in practice at the Phoenix racetrack on Friday. Spokesmen for Nascar and Stewart-Haas Racing both wrote that they were gathering facts and had no further comment.
That is standard procedure for Nascar. The Cup driver Travis Kvapil was arrested on charges of assaulting his wife in October 2013 and never faced a suspension, even after The Sporting News reported that he had pleaded guilty and had been sentenced to probation and community service.
Nascar’s reaction is in contrast to other sports leagues, which have removed athletes from competition while they were involved in domestic violence investigations and before legal proceedings were complete.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who reached a plea deal after assaulting his fiancée earlier this year, was suspended indefinitely after video of the episode became public. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy have been placed on the N.F.L. exempt list while legal proceedings continue in their domestic violence cases. They are being paid but are not allowed to compete.
Defenseman Slava Voynov of the N.H.L.’s Los Angeles Kings was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested last month on domestic assault charges.
Ramsey Poston, a former managing director of communications for Nascar who helped the organization with crisis management after the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001, said: “It used to be that sports leagues, when there was an issue, would let law enforcement fully investigate an issue and then, based on that, take appropriate action. In the post-Ray Rice world, I don’t think sports leagues have that luxury anymore.
“Obviously it is far, far too early to begin to speculate about what might have happened,” Poston added. “I can’t see a basis for them to take any action, especially take him off the track. However, Nascar should be asking questions and potentially conducting their own investigation.”
Busch is the second high-profile driver at Stewart-Haas Racing who has faced a criminal investigation in recent months. Tony Stewart, Busch’s boss and an owner of the team, was investigated in Ontario County, N.Y., over his involvement in the death of the sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. during a race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Aug. 9.
Ward had left his racecar after a crash to confront Stewart on the track and was fatally hit by Stewart’s car. Stewart was not charged in the death.
Busch has a long history of confrontations with drivers and members of the news media, on and off the track.
He was suspended for two races by one former team, Roush Racing, in 2005 after an arrest on charges of reckless driving before a race at Phoenix. He lost his job at Penske Racing in 2011 after a verbal confrontation with a broadcaster. After threatening a reporter at Dover in 2012, Busch was suspended by Nascar.
Relegated to driving for smaller, less competitive teams for two years in part because of his volatility, Busch is in his first season at Stewart-Haas Racing. He made the 16-driver field for the playoff but was eliminated in the first round.
The playoff has prompted a series of postrace fights among drivers in contention, including a melee last week at Texas Motor Speedway. Nascar has not penalized drivers for fighting, and the confrontations have brought greater attention to the sport.
The accusation against Busch comes at a time when Nascar is trying to promote its playoff.
The Phoenix race will cut the field of drivers in the championship chase to four from eight heading into the Nov. 16 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.