Here’s Part 2 of this week’s edition of Coffee With Kyle, featuring NBC Sports’ NASCAR analyst Kyle Petty interviewing NASCAR Hall of Famers and father and son Ned Jarrett and Dale Jarrett.
Both men remembered the fateful day in 1964 when Glenn “Fireball” Roberts was involved in a horrific crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway that eventually took his life more than a month later.
It was on May 24, 1964, during the World 600 race that Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson were racing each other, vying for position when they got tangled in a wreck. In most cases, it would have been considered a typical racing crash. But this one was so much different.
Here’s how Ned Jarrett described it:
“I remember Fireball had shared with me that he was going to retire at the end of the year,” Ned Jarrett told Petty. “He had not publicly made that announcement, but he was going to become a spokesperson for Falstaff Beer for $50,000 a year, which is a lot of money.
“Junior and I were racing side-by-side going into Turn 1 and there’s a bump between Turns 1 and 2. Junior was on the inside, hit that bump, hit me and I spun to the inside of the racetrack while Junior spun to the outside. When I hit the wall, it burst the gas tank open. As I skidded down the wall, there was a spark and the gas caught on fire, so the car was on fire. Then, something caused Fireball to spin into me and his gas tank burst open as well, so all hell broke loose. We landed about 30 feet apart. I got out of my car and the wheels were still turning on his car. It landed on its top. I saw him trying to get out so I ran over and tried to pull him out.
“He was wearing a custom made uniform. It had zippers on the sleeves and up the sides and looked very nice, but if you tried to pull it off in a hurry, we both got our hands burned from the heat on the zippers (of his firesuit). We had it basically torn off while it was burning on him. The rescue squad got there and I just turned it over to them, not thinking that it was that bad. I knew he had some burns and I had some burns on my hands and face, but it wasn’t okay and it finally took his life. It was a sad day for the sport.”
Ned Jarrett suffered those burns while trying to rescue Roberts from his race car turned inferno. It’s a memory that has stayed with him, as vivid today as the incident was 55 years ago.
Son Dale also recalled that race, but from a different perspective. Dale was only seven years old and was at the speedway to watch the race.
Here’s what Dale Jarrett remembers about that race, more so about the uncertainty of what happened in that crash and how his father was doing.
“I can remember (older brother) Glenn and I were against the fence just coming off Turn 4, where the car was parked,” Dale Jarrett said. “We didn’t see a lot, just dad gone by and keep up with things. The next thing we see is this black smoke on the back straightaway and had no idea of what was going on. It seemed like 30 minutes, probably wasn’t that long, but it was the not knowing part.”
Also part of the interview: Ned Jarrett’s recovery from a horrible crash in a race at Greenville, as well as entering the world of television after hanging up his racing firesuit.
Check out the interview in the video above.