By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
In this spotlight story, we’ll look back on the racing career of Edward Glenn Roberts Jr. He was commonly known as “Fireball” Roberts.
He was a stock car driver that was born on Jan. 20, 1929 in Tavares, Florida. As a baseball player when he was playing for the Zellwood Mud Hens, an American Legion baseball team, he received his nickname “Fireball” because of his fastball that he threw.
After high school, he enlisted in the now defunct United States Army Air Corps in 1945. However, he would later be discharged, due to having asthma.
He also attended the University of Florida. On the weekends, he would also compete in dirt tracks.
Roberts was just 18-years-old when he competed at the Daytona Beach Road Course for the very first-time. The very next year, he won the 150-mile race.
He competed at local stock and modified races in Florida, including Seminole Speedway, before NASCAR sent to speedways in the 1950s. Roberts competed in the series now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for 15-years.
He also competed in the NASCAR Convertible Series for four years. He drove two seasons in the series now known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
“Fireball” also competed in several exhibition races. Of these races, he won two of them in the 1961 Firecracker 250 Qualifier #1, and the 1962 American Challenge Cup.
He also competed in the 1956 Race #37, according to Racing-Reference.info, in which he finished second. He also competed in the 1959 Daytona 500 Consolation Race, when he finished sixth. He also finished second in the 1961 American Challenge Cup.
Roberts finished fourth in the 1963 Race of Champions. He also finished seventh in the 1964 Daytona 500 Pole Position Race #1.
In his 15-years driving in the series now known as the MENCS, he had 33 wins in his career. He also had 32 poles and 93 Top 5 finishes.
He won the prestigious Daytona 500 in 1962. He also was the pole sitter for the event in 1961, 1962, and 1963.
Roberts also won the Southern 500 in 1959 and 1963.
In the NASCAR Convertible Series, he had four wins in 16 races over four seasons. He also had four poles and nine Top 5 finishes.
He made three starts in the series now known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. He had two Top 5 finishes in those races.
His final race of his career came in the 1964 World 600 on Sunday, May 24, 1964 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina. He finished the race in the 35th position for Holman-Moody Racing.
He crashed his ‘64 Ford on Lap 7 that also involved Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson.
Despite not winning a Grand National Championship, he is one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers in 1998. He was the 1957 Grand National Series Most Popular Driver.
He also was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990. He was also inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1995.
He received his third Hall of Fame accolade when he was inducted into the Florida State Hall of Fame. His final Hall of Fame accomplishment came in 2014 when he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Roberts passed away on July 2, 1964. It was believed that he would survive until his condition turned on June 30, 1964. At some point, he contracted pneumonia, before going into a coma the next day.
A few days later, he had passed away.
Following his death, including the deaths of Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald in the Indianapolis 500, it led to research on fire-suits that drivers had to wear. Their deaths also led to the development of the Firestone RaceSafe fuel cell, as cars today have a foam-backed fuel cell to prevent fuel spillage that Roberts dealt with.
NASCAR teams today use a five-point safety harness with special foamed drivers seat. This all came into effect since his death.
In 2007, “Fireball Run” was established as a TV series. Teams compete in a multi-day trivia game to help missing and exploited children organizations. Since it started, more than 30 children has been recovered.