EXCLUSIVE By Mary Jo Buchanan – This weekend at Martinsville, @DavidRagan will pay tribute to Wendell Scott, a driver with whom he has shared a winning history in the No. 34 race car.
Wendell Scott was the first African American to win a NASCAR race in the No. 34 and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next year, while Ragan took his No. 34 to Victory Lane at Talladega last year.
“We’re running a retro paint scheme in tribute to Wendell Scott, the car with the light blue and the No. 34 that he was well known for, which we run today,” Ragan told POPULAR SPEED. “It just seemed right to do it at Martinsville because it was a track that was very close to his hometown of Danville, Virginia. That race track has a lot of history. You go to Martinsville and you get that same feeling that you had at a Darlington or even Charlotte and Daytona.”
“It just seemed right to honor Wendell’s achievement going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame with this throw back paint scheme so his family and friends and fans of his over the years can see the car that they remember going around the race track again.”
Ragan, a student of the history of the sport himself, has great admiration for the difficulties that Scott encountered, not only as an African American driver in a predominantly white southern sport, but also the financial challenges he faced to even get his car to the race track.
“The struggle that Wendell had racing in a predominantly southern stock car series was a lot harder than what I can imagine,” Ragan said. “In the 1960s and 1970s, the race movement nationally was one of the big issues.”
“I think that him being the first African American to win a NASCAR race and our win last year at Talladega being the first win since his in the No. 34 car is really special,” Ragan continued. “I never got a chance to watch Wendell race or get to know him but hearing some of the stories about the sacrifices he made and hard work that he had to do in order to get to the race track and run, it means a lot about what our sport is all about.”
“I’ve been able to see both aspects of a big team with a lot of funding from the Roush Fenway days and being at Front Row Motorsports, a small team that is growing,” Ragan said. “It’s neat to see some similarities as people explain what Wendell was able to achieve as a relatively small team, small name driver that didn’t have a lot of manufacturer’s support.”
“So, it is only fitting that we can honor him and it is going to be neat to see the family, friends, some of his crew guys be around the track this weekend and watch the race and bring back some good memories.”
Ragan is also excited about the opportunity to not only remember Wendell Scott but also to educate fans who may not know his story and his important role in the history of the sport.
“The event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame announcing this throw back paint scheme on my No. 34 race car was a neat deal,” Ragan said. “I’m sure there will be some more things during the induction ceremony in January as well that will honor him.”
“But this weekend is just about remembering the good times that Wendell had and to bring back some good memories,” Ragan continued. “It is definitely something special for our team.”
“And even more important, a lot of people that may not know his story, watching this weekend will get an education for sure.”
Ragan is hoping that some of that historic Wendell Scott magic will bring the No. 34 car good luck this race weekend, as well as for the remainder of the race season.
“We’re going to be aggressive these last few races,” Ragan said. “We still have a lot to do with our Front Row Motorsports car. We’re still working and trying to understand this new balance, this new aero package, and this new package.”
“Going into next year, we don’t have a lot of big changes in the race car parts so the more we can learn this weekend it will help us next year at some of the short tracks,” Ragan continued. “We’re still working hard to end the season on a good note. We’re in the midst of a crew change with the No. 34 and 38 car and working with a new crew chief. So, we’re just trying to finish the year strong but get a jump start on the next year.”
“It would be great if we could get a top-10 or top-15 finish,” Ragan said. “That would be an outstanding day.”
So, what does David Ragan hope that fans take away as his legacy as he pays tribute to the No. 34 of Wendell Scott at Martinsville this race weekend?
“I’d like everyone to remember that win last year at Talladega because it had been so many years since that No. 34 car won,” Ragan said. “Hopefully, that’s not the last.”
“I’d like to think that ten or fifteen years down the road that folks can look back and remember that David Ragan and that 34 team did grow and make Front Row Motorsports more consistent and a contender in the Sprint Cup Series,” Ragan continued. “That would be great to be known as a part of that. I’ve got a lot of chapters left in my racing career but I really enjoy working with the Front Row Motorsports team and helping them get to the next level.”
“It has been something that I’ve enjoyed doing and I think it’s great that this tribute to Wendell Scott is going to happen at a track like Martinsville which is such an historic race track.”
“It is a perfect venue to honor one of the veterans of our sport.”
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