BEACH -- Edward Glenn "Fireball" Roberts had a
celebrity standing and was known throughout the country
as one of NASCAR's top racers.
While Roberts was constantly in the public eye, he
successfully cast a blanket over his personal life and
enjoyed time to himself.
From left, drivers Marvin Panch, Tiny Lund,
Fireball Roberts and Nelson Stacy were friends.
Panch, Roberts, and Stacy were all Daytona Beach
"Bubby was a loner," JoAnne Funderburke
said recently of her older brother. "He didn't have many
friends. He liked his privacy."
When Roberts granted Sports Illustrated an interview
late in 1963, and the opportunity to take an up-close
look at his life, he cloaked several facts from the
Roberts' marriage was in failure, and he was deeply
in love with another woman, Judy Judge.
Roberts had an "arrangement" with his wife Doris, who
stubbornly refused to give NASCAR's first big star a
divorce. They were married in 1950.
"She just liked being Mrs. Fireball Roberts," said
one of Roberts' friends. "She was OK with Fireball doing
anything, just as long as he didn't throw it in her
Glenn and Doris Roberts were given a divorce
in St. John's County on April 15, 1964, only six weeks
before his horrible accident in the World 600 at
Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Roberts and Judge planned to marry when he retired
from driving at the end of that summer.
Doris McConnell Roberts, 75, died May 5 in her
hometown of Kannapolis, N.C. She and Glenn had one
child, Pamela, who makes her home in Florida.
Fireball's parents, Edward Glenn Sr. and Doris
Roberts, moved their family here from Apopka and owned a
small motel along Hollywood Boulevard near Main Street.
It was his mother who processed the waivers that allowed
her son to race as a teenager.
"My mother signed the papers for him to race because
daddy didn't want any part of it," Funderburke said.
"Bubby and daddy didn't always see eye to eye and went
around and around. After he started racing and was
married, they got along pretty good."
Back in those days, drivers separated their careers
and family life.
"When Bubby was racing, it wasn't family oriented
like it is today," Funderburke said. "We'd watch him
race but didn't hang around."
There is a third sibling in the Glenn Sr. and Doris
Roberts family. Tommy Roberts was born when
Fireball and JoAnne were in high school.
"It's like he grew up in another family because we
were so much older than Tommy," Funderburke said of her
younger brother, who lives in Tennessee.
In addition to his sister and Judge, the rest of
Fireball Roberts' inner circle included Irwin
"Speedy" Spiers and Bob Laney. Both had known
the driver since their teenage years.
Spiers was Roberts' first crew chief as they
barnstormed short tracks around the country to fulfill
their need for speed. Laney was Roberts hunting buddy.
"Glenn and I were the world's greatest duck hunters,"
Laney said recently. "We would go hunt where the
launching pads are at Cape Canaveral now."
Roberts was close to another NASCAR driver who lived
in town, Marvin Panch.
"Fireball was a good man," Panch says. "I got along
real good with him. We traveled together a lot."
And there was Dick Joslin, who raced short
tracks up and down the East Coast. Joslin was to be
Roberts' best man when he married Judge.
And, of course, there were Roberts' spiritual racing
Zen masters, Marshal Teague, when he was young,
and Smokey Yunick, when he matured and stormed
into big-league stock car racing.
It was Teague who lured a young Roberts into the
world of racing, while Yunick's black and gold Pontiacs
helped propel him to stardom.
And while Roberts tolerated the media, he had at
least two friends who carried a reporters' notebook --
longtime News-Journal sports editor Benny Kahn
and Max Muhleman, who was stationed in Charlotte.
Kahn wrote Roberts' epitaph.
"He had a wide appetite and interest in life,"
Muhleman said. "I found that fascinating."
2004 News-Journal Corporation |
news-journalonline.com (SM) |
Copyright © 1999 FireballRoberts.com
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
05/07/12 20:55:48 -0400.
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