He came into NASCAR racing bearing the nickname of "Fireball" and this had no bearing on his driving abilities. Sadly, on 24th May 1964 during the World 600 race at Charlotte Glenn was caught up in a crash between Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson and whilst trying to avoid them crashed into a retaining wall when his car burst into flames. Glenn was critically burned and survived for thirty seven days before succumbing to his injuries and pneumonia on 2nd July 1964. Fireball's final resting place is in a mausoleum in the Daytona Memorial Park located closely behind the third turn at Daytona International Speedway.
NASCAR car that won the 1962 Daytona 500 (Source:Wiki Commons)
Edward Glenn "Fireball" Roberts, Jr was born on the 20th January 1929 in Tavares, Florida At the age of around fifteen he moved with his family to Apopka, Florida where his parents ran a motel. This is where he picked up his nickname of "Fireball". Glenn was a keen amateur player of Jai Alai, pronounced hi-a-lie, a betting game often said to be "the fastest game on earth" and the speed and challenge of the game enthralled him. Generally Glenn did not bet but preferred to play at a Fronton (open walled arena), spending many afternoons catching the ball (pelota) with his hand-made wicker basket (cesta).
At the age of sixteen he enlisted into the Army Air Corps but was discharged after basic training due to suffering from asthma. He returned to the University of Florida, at Gainesville to study mechanical engineering in 1947 but did not graduate, leaving after four semesters to return to racing.
Rated as one of the best drivers he accumulated thirty three wins, one hundred and twenty two top ten positions and raced in 206 races over a fifteen year period. At various tracks during his racing career he set an amazing 400 records, including leading in nearly 6000 laps and at the tough Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, the first NASCAR super speedway he led 1644 laps. It was with the advent of these new, exciting super speedways in the late 1950ís and early 1960ís that Glenn came into his own, winning the Rebel 500 in 1957 and 1959, the Southern 500 in 1958 and 1963 and the Dixie 500 in 1960 at Atlanta International Raceway. In 1962 he was the first to win, in a single year, the Daytona 500 and the July Firecracker 400 driving a black and gold 1962 Pontiac built by the legendary car builder, Smokey Yunick.
Glennís awards include Florida Sportswriters' Award for the most outstanding athlete, 1958, voted NASCAR's most popular driver, 1957, Daytona 500, 1962 Daytona Firecracker 1959-62-63, Rebel 500 at Darlington 1957 and 1959, the Atlanta Dixie 400, 1960, inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, 1990, inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, 1995 and named as one of NASCARís 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. As like many of the drivers in those days Glenn never ran a full season therefore was not contender for a championship.
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