Monday, September 15, 2008

The "Jackie Robinson of auto racing"

From the latest issue of Booklist, here's a review of a truly amazing sounding book (and story):

"Wendell Scott had a background similar to many of his contemporaries in the stock-car racing circuit of the early 1950s: an impoverished childhood; a rebellious streak; an aversion to mill, mine, or farm work; an affinity for cars; and some experience as a moonshine driver. Biggest difference? Scott was black. Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line in a liberal northern city with the backing of the formidable Branch Rickey. Scott was virtually alone and competed throughout the South in a climate of often-dangerous bigotry. He weathered epithets from fans, competitors who would slam his car into the wall, and promoters who refused to pay him his winnings. But his biggest hurdle may have been his lack of sponsorship money for most of the two decades he drove on the circuit. When he retired, in the early 1970s, he had not collected any six-figure purses or million-dollar endorsement deals, but he had earned the respect of his peers and even NASCAR fans, who, some say, made Scott second in popularity to Richard Petty. Donovan, a two-time Pulitzer winner and amateur race-car driver, interviewed Scott extensively over the last 14 months of his life. He also interviewed more than 200 other individuals, including Scott’s widow and children. The result is the gripping story of a fascinating, brave man who deserves serious recognition for his solitary accomplishment. Proving the Pulitzer selectors knew what they were doing, Donovan has produced one of the most compelling sports biographies of this or any year. A must-read for NASCAR fans."

Hard Driving
, by Brian Donovan, is available now.

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