1964 World 600 (partially found footage of NASCAR Grand National Series race; 1964)

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This article has been tagged as NSFL due to its discussion of a fatal motor racing accident.



World6001.jpg

Fireball Roberts (22) ahead of Jim Paschal (41) at the start.

Status: Partially Found

The 1964 World 600 was the 25th race of the 1964 NASCAR Grand National Series. Occurring on 24th May at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by Jim Paschal of Petty Enterprises. The event however is most known for the fatal accident involving Edward "Fireball" Roberts, who would pass away on 2nd July that same year due to injuries sustained from the crash.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1964 World 600 was the fifth running of the event, with the race covering 400 hundred laps. During qualifying for the event, Jimmy Pardue won the pole position, ahead of Fred Lorenzen and Bobby Isaac. Richard Petty, who would go on to become the 1964 NASCAR Grand National Series champion, qualified in fifth. Fireball Roberts qualified 11th, with eventual race winner Paschal a place behind him.

The race marked Paschal's first major victory after a seventeen year racing career, earning him $24,555 in prize money. He managed to make it up the grid to the first position after other drivers, including Pardue and Isaac, experienced mechanical failures or crashed out. Paschal finished four laps ahead of second place Petty,[1] who nursed his car home after it experienced a blown tyre and was burning ignition wires. As he also drove for Petty Enterprises, owned by his father Lee, it meant that the team achieved a 1-2 sweep in the race.[2] Rex White of the Bud Moore team came home in third, seven laps behind Paschal.

Death of Fireball Roberts[edit | edit source]

On lap 7 of the race, Junior Johnson attempted to overtake Ned Jarrett off the exit of the second turn. However, he ended up hooking bumpers with his rival, and both cars began spinning in the middle of the backstretch, with Jarrett's Ford also ending up hitting the retaining wall. Roberts, who was directly behind the two vehicles, spun into the retaining wall in an attempt to avoid Jarrett's stricken Ford. In the process, Roberts' Ford flipped over, with Buck Baker barely avoiding the wreck. While Roberts did not sustain serious injuries as a result of the crash, he was still stuck in his overturned car because his ankle was stuck under the dashboard, with the clutch or the brake pedal holding it in place. Suddenly, Robert's and Jarrett's cars ignited, and Roberts began to suffer severe burns as his car's near-full fuel tank fed the fire by pouring into the cockpit.[3]

Jarrett escaped his burning car unharmed, and ran over to try and save Roberts. According to Jarrett in a later interview, by that point Roberts' jeans were ablaze. He had only worn a t-shirt and jeans during the race, and had not worn any uniform covered in fire retardant chemicals because his breathing would be affected, as he suffered from an asthmatic condition. Roberts screamed to Jarrett "My God, Ned, help me! I'm on fire!", during the ordeal. Although Jarrett successfully pulled out Roberts, this intervention crucial in preventing Roberts from dying at the scene, Fireball still experienced second- and third-degree burns, which covered eighty percent of his body. He was taken to Charlotte Memorial Hospital, where he lived for another six weeks before ending up in a coma and ultimately passing away aged 35 from a variety of causes, including pneumonia, blood poisoning and a fever. One of NASCAR's first superstars, Roberts had intended to retire from the NASCAR Series following a few other 1964 races.[4]

Following Roberts' death, NASCAR officials enforced a multitude of safety innovations and regulations. Firstly, it was made mandatory for drivers to wear fire-retardant uniforms and gloves. The uniforms would later be replaced with Nomex fire suits, which under NASCAR's criteria for thermal protection performance, would grant greater resistance against fire. Rubber bladders were also added inside the fuel tanks should the tanks rupture, preventing spillages into the cockpit, while fuel check valves helped stopped fuel flow should a car overturn. Rubberised fuel cells would ultimately contribute towards minimising the risk of ignition post-crash, further improving safety in NASCAR.[5]

Availability[edit | edit source]

A few highlights of the 1964 World 600 have resurfaced over the years. These include a short film by The Chrysler Corporation, which recaps the race but does not include any footage of Roberts' fatal accident. Additionally, a few amateur recordings of the race have surfaced, some including the crash and aftermath. The full coverage of the race however has yet to resurface.

According to Racing-Reference, the race may have been televised by a local NBC affiliate in the Charlotte region, but was unable to confirm its existence beyond an urban legend.[6] However, thanks to newspaper clips obtained by nascarman History, it is now confirmed that NBC did indeed broadcast the race as part of its Sports Special program. The race aired on tape delay a week after it was run, with NBC camera crew filming the race on top of the press box and tower grandstand, as well as in the first turn and in the pits. The broadcast, which lasted around 30 minutes, has never resurfaced since.[7]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

Chrysler Corporation film of the 1964 World 600, with no footage of Fireball Roberts' crash.
Home movie providing some footage and shots of drivers, crew chiefs and engine builders, with no footage of Fireball Roberts' crash.


Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

External Link[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]