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Edward Glenn "Fireball" Roberts
NASCAR Grand National Career: 1948-1964
an inauspicious start on the hard-packed sands of Daytona Beach, Florida, in
1948, Edward Glenn Roberts. Jr. fashioned one of the most successful and
glamorous careers in NASCAR.
Perhaps the greatest driver never to win a
NASCAR Championship title,
Roberts accumulated 33 wins, including the 1962 Daytona 500,
in a career that spanned 16 seasons before his untimely death in 1964 from
injuries incurred in a fiery accident at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Roberts
finished second to Bill Rexford in his rookie season and that was a story
unto itself. Fireball chose to run flat-out in the last race of the season,
even after Rexford had dropped out of the race. Fireball broke and then he
finished just 3 positions in front of Rexford and it cost him the
Championship. At that time, it paid more to win the last race than it did
for the Championship.
He split his time
between the NASCAR Grand Nationals and the NASCAR Modifieds for five years
before returning full-time to NASCAR Grand National racing. In his first
year back, 1956, Roberts won 5 races and 4 pole positions to finish
6th in the point standings. He raced only 10 times in 1958 but had six
wins, one second and a third, and finished 11th in the point standings
despite missing almost 80% of the races!
January 20, 1929 in Tavares, Florida and raised in Apopka, Florida, Edward
Glenn Roberts Jr. attended the University of Florida but never graduated. He
preferred racing and struck out to find his way into the sport. He found his
way into NASCAR late in 1948 and his career began in earnest.
was a name everyone recognized. He was the
epitome of the exciting, young racing star. Oddly enough, he didn't get the
nickname through his on-track achievements. Rather, he earned it for his
ability to throw a baseball from his years as a pitcher in youth
baseball in Apopka. Thank goodness for the racing world, baseball was never his primary interest
and racing was. (See controversial story on this subject
the time he started on the Daytona beach course when he was 19, where he wrecked
on the ninth lap of a Modified race, until his untimely death in 1964,
Roberts shaped a career that saw him with 35 poles and win 33 times and 22
runner-up positions in 206 races. He set an astonishing 400 records at various tracks,
leading a total of 5,970 laps including 1,644 laps led at tough, old
Darlington Raceway, SC, NASCARS's first super speedway.
won several times over the years, but it was on the fast, exciting new
super speedways that began to crop up in the late '50s and early '60s that
he made his mark. Darlington was his favorite super speedway and on
it, Roberts became one of NASCAR's best in the fledgling start of the big
track era. He won the Rebel 300 in 1957 and 1959 and the Southern 500 in
1958 and 1963. In 1960, he won the Dixie
500 at Atlanta International Raceway. His 1962 Daytona 500 and
July Firecracker 400 victories made him the first to sweep the speedway's
two events in a single season.
(Editor's Note: Forrest Hawley writes: "Junior [Johnson] and Fireball, to
me, put on the greatest driving exhibition on this day I have ever seen. To
me these two drivers should be the first to go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame
in Charlotte. I've had the pleasure of meeting both these drivers.")
1963 victory at Darlington Southern 500 was particularly significant. He came to the track in excellent
physical shape after recovering from an injury. His plan was to start in the
middle of the pack, which meant having to qualify on the second day. During
practice however, he hit the guardrail in his No. 22 Holman-Moody Ford and
almost washed the car out. But it was repaired in time for him to set a
qualifying mark of 133.819 mph that got him the ninth starting spot. Roberts
was known as a predictable hard-charger, but he ran a uncharacteristically cautious race until the latter stages, when he
then began to charge. He
took the lead with only 75 laps left and won in a cakewalk. He had run the
perfect race, saving man and machine.
A year later at Charlotte Motor
Speedway, Roberts was involved in a fiery crash with Ned Jarrett and Junior
Johnson. Severely burned, he survived for 37 days before he succumbed to
His death a was a blow to the
racing world. many have said there was no predicting how far Roberts would
have progressed as a driver, since he was clearly the pathfinder of the
superspeedway era. However, his niche had already been carved. When he left,
he was vastly popular and vastly successful.
This Apopka, Florida 1920’s
home was once the home of racecar legend Glenn "Fireball" Roberts.
The brick structure, measuring overall 34’ wide and 60’ long at 160
tons, was in the way of commercial development. This home was
relocated 1 mile to a
residential area for a Mr. Marshall Howard in 1990.
Copyright © 1999 FireballRoberts.com
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
01/20/16 20:05:16 -0500.
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