4 Black NASCAR Drivers: Driving in the Frontlines to Bring Change

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White drivers dominate motorsport. Its exclusivity, and economic demands make it inaccessible to a lot of black people. Nonetheless, several black NASCAR drivers faced these challenges and left their mark in the sport. In this article, we spotlight the journeys of these drivers and their impact. 

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B. Willy T. Ribbs

spotcovery-Racing driver Willy T. Ribbs at Sears Point International Raceway in 1984
Racing driver Willy T. Ribbs at Sears Point International Raceway in 1984. Source: Wikimedia licensed CC-BY-SA-3.0

From nearly being killed by a race car to becoming one of the pioneering black NASCAR drivers, William Theodore Ribbs Jr. drove for over 20 years. He started driving at the age of four. By the time he was a teenager, Ribbs drove in California but got into trouble for overspeeding. 

He later attended a racing school. In 1975, Ribbs competed in Europe and won the Dunlop Championship. Amid financial and technical challenges, Ribbs still produced outstanding performances, winning several races. In 1986, he competed in the NASCAR Cup Series, becoming the first driver since Wendell Scott to do so. 

He also drove in the Daytona 500. In 1991, he was the first black driver to race in the Indianapolis 500. Although Ribbs didn’t win any major races, he was a groundbreaking figure in the sport.

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Bubba Wallace

spotcovery-Bubba Wallace is ready for a race
Bubba Wallace is ready for a race. Source: Wikimedia licensed by  CC-BY-2.0

Bubba Wallace is one of the few black NASCAR drivers on the track. He’s raced in various stock car series events like the ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards Series East. In 2010, he was part of the development series for NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and retained his seat on the team. 

That said, his success came in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In 2013, he won the national series and was the first African-American man since Wendell Scott to win the event. Overall, Wallace has six wins, three pole position places, and 30 top-ten finishes. He’s now using his position to call for more racial diversity in the sport. 

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B. Jesse Iwuji

Jesse Iwuji talked about forming a team and business partnership. Video Credit: NASCAR on FOX

Jesse Iwuji is also on the list of black NASCAR drivers. He’s a U.S. Navy officer and competes part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His interest in racing stems from a visit at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte.

He then went to a drag race and rode a Dodge Challenger. His rise in car racing continued and by the time he joined stock car racing, he was driving the Chevrolet Corvet. Iwuji first raced in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in 2018 at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. He finished 25th. 

Two years later, he debuted in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. With the experience he’s earned, Iwuju partnered with Emmitt Smith to start his Xfinity Series team. 

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Wendell Scott

A review of Wendell Scott’s career. Video Credit: NascarAllOut

Wendell Scott is hailed as one of the most influential black NASCAR drivers. His love for cars was sparked by his father’s work as a mechanic. He worked as a taxi driver and later as a mechanic during World War II

After the war, he opened an auto repair shop and began participating in illegal business, which got him into trouble with the police. This gave him a breakthrough in his career. In 1951, he was recruited by the Dixie Circuit. 

Throughout his career, Scott raced in different events and always got good results despite his mechanical difficulties. In 1961, Wendell Scott was the first black driver to race in the NASCAR Cup Series event. 

He had one win and finished in the top ten 147 times. For his contributions, Scott was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.

The push to have a more racially diverse racing field continues. The presence of drivers like Bubba Wallace in the current scene signals the importance of never stepping off the gas. These black NASCAR drivers have done and continue to do their part. Hopefully, racing organizations will play their part.  

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