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Posted June 7, 2009
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I'm so glad that Godwin Kelly was inspired to write this book.
A complete source on Roberts' life has been unavailable before this books' publishing.
Roberts was, in fact, working on his biography when he died and the man who was his friend and co-author has never completed nor released that information.
Fireball Roberts was the first NASCAR star to get endorsements outside the world stock car racing.
Roberts was a driver who worked out, was good looking, and had that colorful nickname, which he got on the baseball field.
Combine all that with his driving skill and you had a big star.
But because of the timing of Roberts' passing, most of what I've learned of Roberts life was from the limited information available, from multiple sources.
Kelly has done a good job of telling the life story of this star.
The author brings us information that is available for the first time.
Kelly's access to the diaries of the woman who Roberts intended to make his second wife brings insight to Roberts' life and ultimate death that has never been available before.
Kelly's book fills a noticeable gap in the documentation of the heroes of the first two decades of NASCAR's existence.
Roberts could be considered the first modern hero of the NASCAR circuit.
He was getting endorsements and was apparently going to retire at the end of 1964.
I had attended (with my father) the World 600 at Charlotte in 1964, the race that Roberts received his burns. I, and all the racing world, followed the reports (medical privacy rules were not like today) and hoped that his apparent recovery would continue, but Roberts succumbed to his burns on July 2 1964.
Not long after his passing, I purchased a comic book and on the back was a small car racing set, with a photo of Roberts as the endorser.
This book gives a fine overview of the life of the racing superstar, and I would recommend it to anyone who would like to know more on how the sport got to where it is today.
My one complaint is that the excellent photos are not captioned. In my years of reading of this era, many of these photos are new to me. While the caption-less style may give a neater appearance, information on the people and events shown is not available anywhere in the book. I believe this is a serious flaw.
Still, this book is well worth your time, and gets my recommendation.