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Edward Glenn "Fireball" Roberts Jr. (January 20, 1929 – July 2, 1964) was an American stock car racer.

Fireball Roberts
FireballRobertsGraveSitePlaque.jpg
Grave marker
BornEdward Glenn Roberts Jr.
(1929-01-20)January 20, 1929
Tavares, Florida
DiedJuly 2, 1964(1964-07-02) (aged 35)
Charlotte, North Carolina
Cause of deathComplications due to racing crash on May 24, 1964, during the 1964 World 600
AchievementsDaytona 500 pole winner 1961, 1962, 1963
1962 Daytona 500 winner
1958, 1963 Southern 500 winner
Awards1957 Grand National Series Most Popular Driver
Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers (1998)
International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee (1990)
Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1995)
Florida Sports Hall of Fame inductee
NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee (2014)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career
206 races run over 15 years
Best finish2nd (1950)
First race1950 (Daytona Beach)
Last race1964 World 600 (Charlotte)
First win1950 (Hillsboro)
Last win1964 (Augusta)
Wins Top tens Poles
33 122 32
Statistics current as of February 23, 2013.

BackgroundEdit

Roberts was born in Tavares, Florida, and 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. He enlisted with the United States Army Air Corps in 1945, but was discharged after basic training because of his asthma.

Racing careerEdit

 
"Fireball" Roberts' 1957 NASCAR Ford
 
Roberts' 1962 Daytona 500 winning car

He attended the University of Florida and raced on dirt tracks on weekends. 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, and in the top-ten 59 percent of the time. He won both the Daytona 500 and Firecracker 250 events in 1962,[1] driving a black and gold 1962 Pontiac built by car builder legend, Smokey Yunick.

Labor unionEdit

In 1961, Roberts, temporary president of the Federation of Professional Athletes, was in dispute with NASCAR president, Bill France, over the Teamsters' Union affiliate – the FPA – which he and Curtis Turner had helped organize and which France was trying to disband.[2] Unlike the banned Curtis Turner and Tim Flock, Roberts soon returned to the NASCAR fold.

DeathEdit

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 thought that Roberts had an allergic reaction to flame-retardant chemicals, he was secretly an asthmatic, and the chemicals affected his breathing.[3][4]

Roberts was able to survive for several weeks, and it appeared he might pull through, but he 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. Roberts died from his burns on July 2, 1964.

Roberts' death, as well as the deaths of Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald at the Indianapolis 500, six days after Roberts' crash, led to an increase in research on fire-retardant uniforms. It also led to the development of the Firestone RaceSafe fuel cell. Modern race cars use a foam-filled fuel cell to prevent fuel spillage of the magnitude of Roberts car. Also, fully fire-retardant coveralls would be phased in, leading to mandatory Nomex racing suits. Roberts had lost his close friend, Joe Weatherly, in January 1964 at the Motor Trend 500, at Riverside, California.

Many sources reported that Roberts was planning to retire, since he had taken a 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.[5]

LegacyEdit

Despite having his career cut short and having never won a Grand National title, Roberts was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers. 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. In 2000, the city of Concord, North Carolina, named a street near Charlotte Motor Speedway in his honor.

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, as requirements for all NASCAR vehicles.

The "Fireball Run", named for Roberts, was started in 2007. This streaming TV "adventurally" series, headquartered at Universal Studios in Florida, covers 40 teams as they compete in an 8-day, 2000 mile race and life-sized trivia game to raise money for missing and exploited children organizations. The Fireball Run is credited with assisting in the recovery of 38 missing children.[citation needed]

In 2013 Roberts was nominated for induction in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he was included in the 2014 induction ceremony.[6]

In popular cultureEdit

The novel The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley features an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts.

Motorsports career resultsEdit

NASCAREdit

(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led. ** – All laps led.)

Grand National SeriesEdit

NASCAR Grand National Series results
Year Team No. Make 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 NGNC Pts Ref
1950 Jim Davis 11 Hudson DAB
33
CLT 2nd 1848.5 [7]
51 Ford LAN
15
MAR CAN VER DSP MCF CLT
Sam Rice 71 Olds HBO
1
DSP
11 HAM
2
MAR
6
WIN HBO
21
82 DAR
2
LAN
3
NWS
16
VER
1951 85 Plymouth DAB
45
12th 930 [8]
Sam Rice 11 Olds CLT
8
NMO
19
GAR HBO
14
ASF NWS
38
MAR
32
CAN CLS
24
CLB DSP GAR GRS BAI HEI AWS MCF ALS MSF FMS MOR ABS
Saverance Motors Ford DAR
5
CLB
2
CCS LAN CLT DSP WIL HBO TPN PGS MAR OAK NWS HMS JSP ATL GAR NMO
1952 PBS DAB
52
JSP
24
NWS MAR CLB
21
ATL CCS LAN DAR
8
DSP CAN HAY FMS HBO CLT MSF NIF OSW MON MOR PPS MCF AWS DAR
49
CCS LAN DSP WIL
16
HBO MAR NWS 59th - [9]
Bill Snowden 16 Hudson ATL
18
PBS
1953 Saverance Motors 11 Ford PBS DAB HAR NWS CLT RCH CCS LAN CLB HCY MAR PMS RSP
39
LOU FFS LAN TCS WIL MCF PIF MOR ATL RVS LCF DAV HBO AWS PAS HCY 132nd 84 [10]
Leland Colvin Olds DAR
45
CCS LAN BLF WIL NWS MAR ATL
1954 25 PBS DAB
8
JSP ATL
22
OSP OAK NWS HBO CCS LAN WIL MAR SHA RSP
20
CLT GAR CLB
13
LND HCY MCF WGS PIF AWS SFS GRS MOR OAK CLT SAN COR DAR
7
CCS CLT LAN MAS MAR NWS 22nd 1648 [11]
1955 Bob Fish M-1 Buick TCS PBS JSP DAB
48
OSP CLB HBO NWS MGY LAN CLT HCY ASF TUS MAR RCH NCF FOR LIN MCF FON AIR CLT PIF CLB AWS MOR ALS NYF SAN CLT FOR MAS RSP DAR
66
MGY LAN RSP GPS MAS CLB MAR LVP NWS HBO 201st - [12]
1956 DePaolo Engineering 22 Ford HCY CLT WSS PBS ASF DAB
59
PBS
5
WIL ATL NWS
25
LAN
31
RCH
18
CLB CON GPS HCY HBO
4
MAR
16
LIN CLT POR EUR NYF MER MAS
21
CLT
4
MCF POR AWS
18
RSP
1*
PIF
2
CSF CHI
1
CCF
4
MGY
10
OKL
3
ROA
3
OBS
4
NOR
8
PIF
8
MYB
1
POR DAR
51
CSH
4
CLT
19
LAN
17
POR CLB
4
HBO
1
NWP
1
CLT
10
CCF
12
MAR
5
HCY WIL
4
7th 5794 [13]
12 SAN
8
1957 22 WSS
2
CON TIC
1*
DAB
37
CON
4
WIL
9
HBO
17
AWS
13
NWS
1**
LAN
1*
CLT
1
PIF
2
GBF
5
POR CCF
1
RCH
2*
MAR
9
POR EUR LIN
2
LCS
14
ASP 6th 8268 [14]
Roberts Racing NWP
1
CLB
16
CPS PIF
9
JAC
12
HCY
5
NOR
21
LCS
7
GLN
2
KPC LIN
31
OBS
6
MYB
3*
DAR
33
NYF
5
AWS
10
CSF SCF LAN
17*
CLB
15
CCF
14
CLT
2
NBR
1*
CON
1*
NWS
21*
GBF
11 RSP
13
MAS
3
POR
Dick Beaty 34 Ford CLT
5
Buck Baker Racing 7 Chevy MAR
12
1958 Bob Fish M-1 Buick FAY DAB
9
CON FAY WIL HBO FAY CLB PIF 11th 4420 [15]
Beau Morgan 494 Ford ATL
3
CLT MAR ODS OBS GPS GBF STR NWS BGS
Frank Strickland 22 Chevy TRN
1*
RSD CLB NBS REF LIN HCY AWS RSP
1*
MCC SLS TOR BUF MCF BEL BRR CLB NSV
30
AWS
1
BGS MBS DAR
1*
CLT BIR
1
CSF GAF RCH HBO SAS MAR
1*
NWS ATL
2
1959 Jim Stephens 3 Pontiac FAY DAY
33
DAY
34
HBO CON DAY
1*
HEI CLT MBS CLT NSV AWS BGS GPS CLB DAR
7
HCY RCH CSF HBO 16th 3676 [16]
22 Chevy ATL
8
WIL BGS CLB NWS REF HCY
E. C. Wilson 48 Chevy MAR
25
TRN CLT NSV ASP PIF GPS
Buck Baker Racing 88 Chevy ATL
6
CLB WIL RCH BGS AWS
Lynton Tyson MAR
30
AWS NWS CON
1960 John Hines 22 Pontiac CLT CLB DAY
1**
DAY DAY
57
CLT NWS PHO CLB MAR HCY WIL BGS GPS AWS DAR
20
PIF HBO RCH HMS CLT
35
BGS DAY
31
HEI MAB MBS ATL
1
BIR NSV AWS PIF CLB SBO BGS DAR
9
HCY CSF GSP HBO MAR NWS CLT
23*
RCH ATL
34
29th 4700 [17]
1961 Smokey Yunick CLT JSP DAY
1*
DAY DAY
20*
PIF AWS ATL
42
GPS HBO BGS MAR NWS
4
CLB HCY RCH DAR
5*
CLT
2
PIF BIR GPS BGS NOR HAS STR DAY
5*
ATL
12
CLB BRI
2
NSV BGS DAR
2*
HCY RCH CSF ATL
3
CLT
29*
5th 17600 [18]
75 HMS
1**
MAR
3
CLT
6
CLT RSD ASP
Rex Lovette 127 Pontiac MBS
21
B. G. Holloway 59 Pontiac AWS
31
RCH SBO
Cotton Owens 6 Pontiac MAR
4
Bud Moore Engineering 18 Pontiac NWS
2
Rex Lovette 22 Pontiac BRI
26
GPS
16
HBO
5
1962 Jim Stephens CON AWS DAY
1*
DAY DAY
1*
CON AWS SVH HBO RCH
5
CLB NWS
4
GPS MBS MAR
18*
BGS BRI
2
RCH HCY CON DAR
32
PIF CLT
9
ATL
4
BGS AUG RCH SBO DAY
1
CLB ASH GPS AUG SVH MBS BRI
36
CHT
2
NSV
19
HUN AWS STR BGS PIF VAL DAR
36
HCY RCH
17
DTS AUG MAR
7
NWS
29
CLT
2
ATL
10*
8th 16380 [19]
1963 Banjo Matthews BIR GGS
20
THS RSD
4
DAY
6
DAY DAY
21
PIF AWS HBO ATL
2
HCY 5th 22642 [20]
Holman-Moody Ford BRI
1*
AUG RCH
23
GPS SBO BGS MAR
28
NWS CLB THS DAR
2
ODS RCH CLT
10
BIR ATL
31
DAY
1*
MBS SVH DTS BGS ASH OBS
1
BRR
5
BRI
29
GPS NSV CLB AWS PIF BGS ONA DAR
1
HCY RCH MAR
7
DTS NWS
4*
THS CLT
4
SBO HBO RSD
4
1964 CON AUG
1
JSP SVH RSD
3
DAY
7
DAY DAY
37
RCH BRI
2
GPS BGS ATL
20
AWS HBO PIF CLB NWS
31
MAR
5
SVH DAR
2
LGY HCY SBO CLT
35
GPS ASH ATL CON NSV CHT BIR VAL PIF DAY ODS OBS BRR ISP GLN LIN BRI NSV MBS AWS DTS ONA CLB BGS STR DAR HCY RCH ODS HBO MAR SVH NWS CLT HAR AUG JAC 27th 9900 [21]
Daytona 500Edit
Year Team Manufacturer Start Finish
1959 Jim Stephens Pontiac 46 45
1960 John Hines Pontiac 3 57
1961 Smokey Yunick Pontiac 1 20*
1962 Jim Stephens Pontiac 1 1*
1963 Banjo Matthews Pontiac 1 21
1964 Holman-Moody Ford 15 37

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Caraviello, David (2013-07-08). "Link to Allisons, history sweetens Johnson's Daytona sweep". NASCAR. Retrieved 2013-07-14.
  2. ^ Augusta Chronicle, August 11, 1961, Page 13.
  3. ^ "Fireball Roberts Home Page". www.fireballroberts.com. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  4. ^ Houston, Rick (2012-10-09). "Dressing the part". NASCAR. Archived from the original on 2012-10-11. Retrieved 2012-10-25.
  5. ^ "Fireball Roberts". howstuffworks.com. 10 August 2007. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  6. ^ Pearce, Al (2013-05-22). "Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty, Tim Flock, Jack Ingram, Fireball Roberts elected to NASCAR Hall of Fame". Autoweek. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
  7. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1950 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  8. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1951 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  9. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1952 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  10. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1953 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  11. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1954 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  12. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1955 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  13. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1956 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  14. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1957 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  15. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1958 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  16. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1959 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  17. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1960 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  18. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1961 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  19. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1962 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  20. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1963 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  21. ^ "Fireball Roberts – 1964 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. NASCAR Digital Media, LLC. Retrieved July 1, 2019.

External linksEdit