Alain Prost and Wendell Scott both represent significant “firsts” as two of the five 1999 inductees into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. The April 22nd ceremony will be held in the Speedvision Dome at the Hall of Fame.
Prost is the first Frenchman to be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, while Scott is the first Afro-American to be so honored. While Prost has glittering career stats that would gain him entrance into anyone’s Hall of Fame, Scott earned his votes by perseverance, overcoming obstacles and by being the first black driver to win at NASCAR’s highest level.
At the end of his splendid career, Prost had virtually re-written the Formula One record book. His 51 career wins, accomplished in 199 starts, is the most ever for any Formula One driver, and his 33 career poles ties him with Jim Clark for second place on the all-time list. Three times, the popular Frenchman won seven races in a single season.
His 14 year career, which began in 1980, culminated with his fourth Formula One title in 1993. Only the legendary Juan Fangio, with five, had more. In addition to his four titles, Prost was runner-up on four other occasions (1983, 1984, 1988 and 1990). He also earned more championship points (798.5), fastest laps (41) and podium finishes (106) than any other Formula One driver in history. Among his 51 wins were a record six victories in his home French Grand Prix.
Born in St. Chamond, France on February 24, 1955, Prost began his racing career in 1973 as the French and European Karting Champion, and won the Senior Karting title in 1974. His competitive debut was in Formula Renault in 1976. He entered Formula One in 1980, driving a McLaren-Ford and finishing tied for 15th in the world championship point standings. In 1981, driving for Renault, he jumped to fifth in points, and the following year, driving a Renault, he was fourth in points.
Prost won his first title in 1985, driving for McLaren, and repeated in 1986. His third title in five years, also with McLaren, came in 1989, but Prost went the next three years without a championship, and there were those who felt he might not win another.
In 1993, Prost silenced his detractors, proving that he had saved the best for last. Driving for Williams, he won his fourth title, claiming 13 poles along the way. During his career, in addition to Renault, McLaren and Williams, he also drove for Ferrari.
When Prost retired at the end of the 1993 season, he spent two years as a TV reporter and did public relations for Renault. In 1996, Prost was a technical advisor for McLaren’s Formula One team. Finding that he wanted to be even more involved in Formula One racing, he bought the Ligier team and formed Team Prost Grand Prix. Powered by Peugeot engines, the team has headquarters in Guyancourt, near Paris.
Wendell Scott, the only black driver in NASCAR for virtually all of his career, probably earned more respect than he did money. His career was a constant struggle with low budgets.
The Danville, VA native started racing in 1947. In his first race, he finished third in a borrowed car, won $50 and was hooked. In the next few years he won 128 hobby, amateur and modified races, on the old Dixie Circuit and outlaw tracks. In 1959, Scott enjoyed his best season ever. He won 22 races and captured the Richmond track championship as well as the Virginia State Sportsman title.
Low budget operations such as Scott’s often need a helping hand, and both Earl Brooks and Ned Jarrett have been credited by Scott as being a big help to him during his career. He and Brooks often traveled together. On the family side, Scott often used his sons as members of his pit crew.
Scott bought a year-old Chevrolet from Buck Baker in 1961 and moved up to NASCAR’s Grand National (now Winston Cup) division. In 1963, driving a car he bought from Ned Jarrett, Scott finished 15th in the points.
NASCAR ran a split season then, and the third race of the 1964 season was on December 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, a one-mile dirt track. Scott beat Buck Baker to become the first black man to win on NASCAR’s highest level, a distinction he still holds.
In May of 1964, Scott was down on his luck and almost out of racing when Ned Jarrett set up a deal for Scott. He was able to obtain a Hulman-Moody Ford that had been raced the year before in USAC for a dollar. Driving that car, Scott finished 12th in points despite missing several races. Over the next five years, Scott consistently finished in the Top Ten in the point standings, with a career-high 6th in 1966.
Tickets for the prestigious induction ceremony remain on sale at the Motorsports Hall of Fame. They are $100 per person, $760 for a table of eight, and may be obtained by calling the Hall of Fame office at 256/362-5002.