Thursday, July 2, 1964 – Glen “Fireball” Roberts, NASCAR’s top drawing card at tracks across the country, died at Memorial Hospital in Charlotte where he had spent six weeks following a fiery crash in the World 600 race on May 24. Roberts, 35, was the winner of 33 races in NASCAR’s top series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500. A wreck in the 600 resulted in burns over 75 percent of his body.
• Officially doctors listed Roberts’ cause of death as pneumonia and septicemia (blood poisoning). The popular star had slipped into a coma a day earlier.
• Roberts was injured in a lap 7 crash that also involved drivers Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson. Jarrett pulled Roberts from his burning car, which had landed on its roof. “Fireball was the idol of all the drivers,” Jarrett said after hearing of his passing. “We looked up to him. He was a gentleman and a sportsman, all that a man in our profession should be.”
• Roberts once said his first racing win, which came on a small dirt track in southern Georgia, earned him “a ham, a sack of pecans and a $20 bill.” At the time of his passing, he had earned more than $300,000, nearly $2.5 million by today’s standards.
• A.J. Foyt, in Daytona to prepare for the Firecracker 400, called Roberts “the best stock car driver I have ever raced against.”