20/05/2024

Blowers Racing

Spearheading Sports Quality

NASCAR Race Legends – Fireball Roberts

NASCAR Race Legends – Fireball Roberts

While he is considered one of the first superstars of NASCAR there is no doubt Fireball Roberts was its first Legend. And he remains, along with Dale Earnhardt, Sr., at the top of NASCAR’s list of legendary drivers that are no longer with us. He also has to be considered, along with Fred Lorenzen, the greatest driver never to win a NASCAR Cup title.

Roberts accumulated 32 wins, including the 1962 Daytona 500, in a career that spanned 15 seasons before his untimely death in 1964 from injuries incurred in a fiery accident. He was NASCAR’s first driver to achieve nine victories on the big racetracks. Roberts had natural physical skills, and while he was noted for his Super speedway prowess, he could drive the short tracks as well, and ran door-to-door with Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett, and Joe Weatherly.

Always ahead of his time, Roberts was not the stereotypical NASCAR driver. He was a mechanical engineering student at the University of Florida. He loved classical music and he loved to dance. He also liked to fly his Comanche airplane, dabble in the stock market and participate in Jai Alai, both as a spectator and a player.

Fireball finished second to Bill Rexford in his rookie season in what was then, the beginning of NASCAR. He split his time between the NASCAR Grand Nationals and the NASCAR Modifieds for five years before turning just to NASCAR Grand National racing. In his first year back, 1956, Roberts won five races and four pole positions to finish sixth 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.

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 where he made his mark.” His favorite was Darlington and on it Roberts honed his Super speedway skills and became one of the best big track drivers of his 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 added credence to his Super speedway fame and made him the first to sweep the speedway’s two events in a single season.

He came to Charlotte in 1964 for the World 600. He started in the middle of the pack, but early in the race he crashed, trying to avoid a wreck in front of him. His famous No. 22 Holman-Moody Ford hit the retaining wall, flipped, and burst into flames. Roberts suffered burns over 80% of his body and survived only 37 days before he succumbed to pneumonia and died on July 2, 1964. Fireball’s legendary status as a racecar driver has, and will endure the test of time because he was certainly one of a kind.