Marc Davis Feels Connected to Wendell Scott's Struggle as a Black Owner/Driver
Saturday, May 23, 2009
CONCORD, N.C., May 22 -- It's not a random number, the "36" that's plastered on the door of the black Toyota Marc Davis intends to race Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
It was chosen to represent the 36 years since an African American driver competed in NASCAR's top ranks in a car he owned himself.
That driver was Wendell Scott of Danville, Va., who died of cancer in December 1990, largely forgotten by stock-car racing after a career that left him with a lone victory (in 495 starts) and scarcely more fame and riches than he had when he started.
Davis, 18, a native of Silver Spring, was 6 months old when Scott died. But he knows his story well, having been tutored in recent years by Wendell Scott Jr., who regaled him with stories about hard knocks and hard times, towing his father's under-funded racecar all over the South and forever making do with less.
A few years ago, it seemed Davis would be spared that hard road. At 15 he was signed as a developmental driver for Joe Gibbs Racing and given the opportunity to progress through the ranks in quality racecars built and serviced by a first-rate crew.
Then came the economic collapse. With sponsorship money drying up, the Gibbs team couldn't find a corporate backer to bankroll Davis's next career move, the step up to NASCAR's Nationwide Series.
So rather than look for a job driving for a lesser team, Davis and his father decided to start their own, a bold move in robust economic times and surely a risk amid the recession.
Honoring Scott's achievement in forging a career as a NASCAR owner-driver with the No. 36 seemed fitting.
"It's something that's stuck with me, that it's been 36 years since Wendell Scott was an owner-driver in the [Sprint] Cup series," Davis said Friday. "It's something I'd like to commemorate."
It costs roughly $4 million a year to field a front-running team in NASCAR's Nationwide ranks. Davis is getting by on a fraction of that, running a limited schedule with partial sponsorship and technical support from Joe Gibbs Racing, from whom he parted on good terms.
Saturday's race will be his third this season, following finishes of 27th and 29th at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway, respectively.
And his car will boast a new paint scheme to tout Davis's latest sponsor, the Word Network, a Michigan-based satellite TV channel offering urban religious programming.