Sunday 24th May 1964
Glenn “Fireball” Roberts was badly burned in a crash during the NASCAR World 600 stockcar race at Charlotte, North Carolina. He sadly died from injury related complications just over a month later.
On lap number 7, Ned Jarrett’s and Junior Johnson’s cars collided between turns one and two and began spinning. Roberts spun off turn two trying to avoid the accident and his Lavender colored Holman-Moody # 22 Ford slammed backwards into an opening on the inside retaining wall, exploded, flipped over and burst into flames. There were no fuel cells or fire retardant suits in those racing days and they only had a fire resistant solution they could dip their driving uniforms into. It was thought Fireball was allergic to the chemicals in the solution, but he very privately suffered from an asthmatic condition and the chemicals affected his breathing. Jarrett’s car spun to a stop near Fireball’s car that was engulfed in flames. Jarrett rushed to and pulled Roberts from his car as Fireball was screaming, “My God, Ned, help me! I’m on fire!” With just a tee shirt for protection Roberts received second and third degree burns over 80 percent of his body. He was airlifted to Charlotte Memorial Hospital in extremely critical condition. Good friends Jarrett & Johnson were most shaken by the incident and it’s said to have hastened the end to their driving careers a short time later. Glenn miraculously made it through the first few days. Then he made it a week, then a couple more. It looked like the crew cut, athletic, always smiling driver was going to beat all odds and pull through this horrifying ordeal. It was only his athletic regime of staying in shape that helped him sustain. But 36 days later, on Tuesday, June 30th, Glenn began to fade fast. He contracted pneumonia, sepsis (blood poisoning), and a fever shot his body temperature up to 104 degrees and he slipped into a coma Wednesday night. Then, just 12 hours after things started turning bad, at 7:13am in room 3305 at Charlotte Memorial Hospital on Thursday, July 2, 1964, Glenn Fireball Roberts’ six week struggle for life came to an end. The checkered flag dropped over this fun loving, practical joker at the young age of 35 years old. He was buried July 5th, 1964, at a funeral service that saw over a thousand attend, in an above ground mausoleum in Bellevue Memorial Gardens (now Daytona Memorial Park) in his adopted hometown of Daytona Beach.