Friday, January 20, 2017

NASCAR Legend Glenn "Fireball" Roberts Born - January 20, 1929

January 20, 1929 – July 2, 1964
Edward Glenn "Fireball" Roberts
(Photo; fireballroberts.com)
Born in Tavares, Florida, USA.
Roberts was raised in Apopka, Florida, where he was interested in both auto racing and baseball. He was a pitcher for the Zellwood Mud Hens, an American Legion baseball team, where he earned the nickname, "Fireball", because of his fastball, not his driving style, which is sometimes thought.

In 1947, at the age of eighteen, he raced on the Daytona Beach Road Course at Daytona, for the first time. He won a 150-mile race at Daytona Beach the following year. Roberts also competed in local stock and modified races at Florida tracks such as Seminole Speedway.

"Fireball" Roberts continued to amass victories on the circuit, despite the changes in NASCAR, as it moved away from shorter dirt tracks to superspeedways in the 1950s and 1960s. In his 206 career NASCAR Grand National races, he won 33 times and had 32 poles. He finished in the top-five 45 percent of the time.
(Photo: john.wellssr via photopin)
1955 Fireball Roberts at Finish #22

He won both the Daytona 500 and Firecracker 250 events in 1962, driving a black and gold 1962 Pontiac built by car builder legend, Smokey Yunick.
1962 Fireball Roberts Pontiac Daytona 500 winner.

On May 24, 1964, at the World 600 in Charlotte, Roberts had qualified in the eleventh position and started in the middle of the pack. On lap seven, Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson collided and spun out and Roberts crashed trying to avoid them. Roberts' Ford slammed backward into the inside retaining wall, flipped over and burst into flames. Witnesses at the track claimed they heard Roberts screaming, "Ned, help me", from inside his burning car after the wreck. Jarrett rushed to save Roberts as his car was engulfed by the flames. Roberts suffered second and third-degree burns over eighty percent of his body and was airlifted to a hospital in critical condition. Although it was widely believed that Roberts had an allergic reaction to flame-retardant chemicals, he was secretly an asthmatic, and the chemicals made his breathing worse.

Roberts was able to survive for several weeks, and it appeared he might pull through. But Roberts' health took a turn for the worse on June 30, 1964. He contracted pneumonia and sepsis and had slipped into a coma by the next day. "Fireball" Roberts died from his burns on July 2, 1964.

Fireball Roberts Grave Site plaque.

Prior to his death, there were many sources reporting that Roberts was retiring, since he had taken a prominent public relations position at the Falstaff Brewing Company, and that the race in which he was killed was to be one of the final races of his career. Ned Jarrett has stated that his decision to retire was prompted by Roberts' death.

After Roberts' death, NASCAR mandated that all drivers wear flame retardant coveralls while on track. They also instituted the five point safety harness, and the special, contoured drivers seat, all three of which are still requirements on all NASCAR entrants.

In 2007, a unique adventurally series was named "Fireball Run" in honor of Fireball Roberts. The production is headquartered at Universal Studios Florida, and has aided in the recovery of 38 missing children.

Despite having his career cut short and having never won a Grand National title, Fireball Roberts was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers. In 2000, the city of Concord, North Carolina, named a street near Charlotte Motor Speedway in his honor. Other career accolades he won include induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1995. He was voted into the 2014 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 22, 2013.
(Photo: The Freewheeling Daredevil via photopin cc)
1957 Fireball Roberts Ford.

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