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BIOGRAPHY (Short Version)
Edward Glenn "Fireball" Roberts

NASCAR Grand National Career: 1948-1964

From 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!

Born 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.

"Fireball" 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 HERE.)

From 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. STATISTICS

He 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.")


His 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 pneumonia.

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 1920s 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.


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