1963 Firecracker 400 (partially found footage of NASCAR Grand National Series race; 1963)

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1963firecracker4001.jpg

Fireball Roberts (22) winning the race ahead of Fred Lorenzen (28) and Marvin Panch (21).

Status: Partially Found

The 1963 Firecracker 400 was the 29th race of the 1963 NASCAR Grand National Series. Occurring on 4th July at the Daytona International Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by Fireball Roberts in a 1963 Ford. This was the first Firecracker race to be expanded from 250 to 400 miles.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1963 Firecracker 400 was the fifth running of the event, with its name a reference to the fact it was held on the United States' Independence Day.[1] It was also the fourth 1963 NASCAR Grand National Series event to be held at Daytona International Speedway,[2] after the Twin 125s and the Daytona 500, which in 1963 occurred on 24th February and was won by Tiny Lund.[3] The Firecracker 400 also has ties to the modern Coke Zero Sugar 400 race, having dropped the Firecracker name in 2019.[1] Indeed, this would be the first instance of the race expanding from 250 to 400 miles.[4]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Junior Johnson winning the pole position in a 1963 Chevrolet.[5] Two qualifying races commenced, where in the first race, it was a battle between Jim Paschal's 1963 Chevrolet and Fred Lorenzen's 1963 Ford. Paschal had led 18 of the 20 laps, but Lorenzen ultimately overtook his opponent near the end of the race, holding on for the remaining two laps to claim victory and $1,000 in prize money.[6] In the second race, Johnson and Roberts were primarily in contention, with Johnson ultimately coming out on top by leading three-quarters of the race, earning the $1,000 ahead of Roberts.[7] The New York Times also noted how a few former motorcycle racers, including Paul Goldsmith, were due to compete in the race,[8] with Goldsmith having qualified 6th.[5]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1963 Firecracker 400 occurred on 4th July. Paschal's move into the lead on the first lap symbolised the frequency of lead changes, with 39 in total occurring over the 160 laps. Indeed, the four best performers in the qualifying races routinely overtook each other until lap 61, when Paschal retired following a piston failure. 50 laps later, Johnson retired from the lead, also due to a piston failure. With the exception of a few laps led by Marvin Panch and Lund in 1963 Fords, the race was primarily between Roberts and Lorenzen. On lap 155, after leading 45 consecutive laps, Roberts was overtaken by Lorenzen, kickstarting a highly competitive ending for the event, cumulating in Roberts overtaking Lorenzen on the final lap to claim victory by a few inches and earning $11,600 in prize money.[9][5] Panch finished a close third, the only other driver on the lead lap.[5]

This would be Roberts' second consecutive win at the event, and his third overall, having also won the 1959 race.[10] Ultimately, this would prove to be Roberts' final Firecracker event, as he passed away two days before the 1964 race from his injuries sustained at the 1964 World 600.[10]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to Racing-Reference, some footage of the 1963 Firecracker 400 may have been included as part of a Historic Films video showcasing classic NASCAR racing at the Daytona International Speedway.[11] While the 25 minutes of footage does not exclusively contain the race, with some clips coming from Daytona 500 races according to the Descriptive Log, it is likely a few fragments can be found in the video, albeit without sound. Nevertheless, a Fleetwood Records field recording of the event also exists.

Additionally, NASCAR on TV states that 45 minutes of highlights were televised on 6th July 1963 as part of ABC's Wide World of Sports, being broadcast alongside the All England Tennis Championships.[12] But while confirmation has been achieved, no footage of the race is known to be publicly available.[13] Back in the 1960s, tapes of recorded television events were usually wiped and reused due to the immense cost of storing them.[14] Nevertheless, there is a slim chance that older NASCAR broadcasts might still be available in kinetoscope form.[15]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

Video[edit | edit source]

Record providing audio of the race.


See Also[edit | edit source]

External Link[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Forbes detailing the origin of the Firecracker 250, and its reporting on its 2019 name change. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  2. Racing-Reference detailing the 1963 NASCAR Grand National Series calendar. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  3. Racing-Reference detailing results for the 1963 Daytona 500. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  4. The Winston Cup Museum noting the race being expanded from 250 to 400 miles. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Racing-Reference detailing the start order and results. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  6. Ultimate Racing History detailing results of the first qualifying race. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  7. Ultimate Racing History detailing results of the second qualifying race. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  8. The New York Times reporting on several former motorcycle racers competing at the event. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  9. The New York Times reporting on Roberts winning the race. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  10. 10.0 10.1 Bleacher Report noting Roberts winning the event three times, and that he passed away two days before the 1964 race. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  11. Racing-Reference claiming highlights of the race were included in a Historic Films video. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  12. NASCAR on TV detailing the ABC broadcast of the race. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  13. Austin LaPlante's YouTube playlist of NASCAR events from 1949-1971, noting no footage of the race is currently accessible. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  14. Old Time Review detailing the practice of wiping. Retrieved 12 Jan '22
  15. Racing-Reference detailing how a kinetoscope of the CBS 1960 Daytona races may still exist, which might be true of the early ABC broadcasts Retrieved 12 Jan '22