By Danny Wicentowski
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By RFT Staff
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Logan attended his first Indy race in 1991 and has been a regular in IRL garages for the past four years. Reeves says the racing world needs folks like Logan: "His heart's in it. He's doing it for the right reasons. He's a racer. Lots of people come in trying to make money. If you're racing for money, you're doing it for the wrong reason. Doc's been around racing. He knows he's not going to get rich doing it. Doc wants to do this, and he's not giving up on it."
Growing up, Logan raced cars and motorcycles on the street but never on the track. "I wouldn't even attempt to drive when I was young enough to do it because racing was not exactly something socially acceptable to African-Americans at that time," he explains. "Not being one to want to force my way into an environment where I'm not welcome, I stayed away from racing and watched it on TV. I feel very, very deeply within my being that had certain things been more like they are now when I was a teenager, I probably would have been a race driver. Some of the stunts we pulled on parking lots and in the streets, we probably would be arrested for today."
Blacks haven't always been welcome on the American motorsports scene. Consider the career of Wendell Oliver Scott. Scott got his start in stock-car racing in the early '50s at the behest of a promoter who wanted a black driver to lure fans to a racetrack at a Virginia fairgrounds. The promoter got Scott's name from the police -- like so many early stock-car racers, Scott hauled moonshine, and the cops who chased him knew he was an expert driver. After winning more than 100 races on the state and local levels, Scott moved to the top echelon of stock-car racing in 1961, where he started 465 NASCAR races, until a crash ended his career in 1973. He finished in the top five 21 times and the top 10 in 155 races, a remarkable record for a driver who never had a major sponsor. He earned $226,563 in his racing career, enough prize money to put his seven children through college.
Scott won his only NASCAR race in 1963, but it was a hushed-up victory. Race officials refused to recognize him as the winner and handed the trophy to a driver Scott had lapped twice. Scott demanded that race scorers recheck their notes. "Everyone in the place knew I had won the race, but the promoters and NASCAR officials didn't want me out there kissing any beauty queens or accepting any awards," he recalled years later. Four hours after the checkered flag came down and the stands emptied, race officials finally agreed Scott had won and gave him the winner's purse. He never got to kiss a white woman on the winner's podium, but several months later, he finally got a trophy. Instead of a race car, the trophy was topped by a man holding a welding torch. Scott, who died of cancer in 1990, was given the recognition he deserved last year, when he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Alabama.
Logan isn't facing the kind of racism that Scott battled -- indeed, other teams are more than willing to lend advice and equipment when the Logan Racing Team is short. But blacks remain rare in the top levels of racing. Willy T. Ribbs, who's now racing sports cars on road courses, is the only African-American who's driven in the Indianapolis 500, and he remains the only black driver at the elite level of auto racing. In Atlanta, Logan's team, with four African-Americans in the crew, has by far the most blacks of any IRL team. Most have none.
But race isn't the biggest issue for Logan. The chassis on his secondhand car is three years old and won't be allowed on the track after this season, which has just two races remaining after Atlanta. And so Logan, who won't say how much he's sunk into this enterprise, must find another car. New ones cost nearly $300,000. He talks about racing next season and wants to enlarge his racing stable. But he's also realistic about his chances of surviving in this six-figure sport without a sponsor. Even the old stuff is expensive: A three-year-old IRL car that's not as fancy as Logan's was recently advertised in On Track magazine for $36,000, and that was without an engine. Brand-new racing engines cost $86,000. A set of tires costs $1,500, and cars typically go through four sets in the course of a race. "This is not something that you want to attempt to do on a regular basis out of your own resources," he says. "It becomes prohibitive after a while."
Like Logan, the Indy Racing League is just starting out. The four-year-old league has opened the door to elite racing for guys like Logan by imposing strict equipment specifications designed to keep costs down. Tony George, owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, created the IRL because he didn't like the direction open-wheel racing had taken. There were too many races on road courses instead of ovals, not enough American drivers and too many teams spending $10 million or more each season.