The question "who was the first Black driver in NASCAR?" seems like it would be easy enough to answer. Even though NASCAR was founded in 1948, the answer only really became clear in the early 2010s!
It is important to be specific about the question. NASCAR oversees several national and regional series. Each series in which a Black driver competed has a "first Black driver." Extensive research would be required to identify the Black drivers across all series, but there is general consensus on the following firsts:
- First Black driver to be licensed to compete in any NASCAR series: Wendell Oliver Scott (1921-1990), 1952.
- First Black driver to start a race in NASCAR's top level national series (then called the Grand National series, now known as the NASCAR cup series): Elias Bowie Jr. (1910-2005)
- First Black driver to compete regularly in the Grand National series: Wendell Oliver Scott (1921-1990), from 1961-1973.
- First Black driver to win a race in the Grand National series: Wendell Oliver Scott (1921-1990), 1963. (As of 2020, the ONLY win by a Black driver at this level.)
It is important to remember that as the history of motorsports in America is much larger than just NASCAR, so too is the history of Black drivers. There are many series and events beyond those sanctioned by NASCAR, and there are many Black drivers who participated in them. There were even events and even series run by Black drivers for Black drivers during the segregation era! The history of Black drivers in motorsports is a rich story which is still being uncovered..