With the Daytona 500 this weekend, here’s a couple of classic country 45’s to help get you in the mood, from Dave Dudley and Marty Robbins.
Stock car racing and country music have always had a close association, with both coming the rural areas of the South. Musicians and record labels have sponsored cars, drivers (Kyle Petty in particular) have sang, and singers have driven. And there’s been a few songs released with racing as the song’s theme.
One of those came from Marty Robbins in 1974 with “Twentieth Century Drifter”. The single was an early Spring top ten hit for Marty. The song pays tribute to the drivers and their dreams of winning the big races, and the struggles that go along with it.
Marty, of course, had some first-hand knowledge, having been a regular competitor on the tracks around Nashville for many years. In addition, Marty also gave Cup racing an occasional try, competing in 35 races between 1966 and 1982. Those starts included 2 in the Daytona 500, in 1973 and 1975. Unfortunately for Marty, both races had disappointing finishes, 34th in ’73 and 39th in ’75. However, Marty did have some success at the top level, finishing six times in the top ten. His career best came at the Motor State 360 in Michigan in 1974, when he finished 5th behind race winner Richard Petty, Canadian driver Earl Ross, “The Silver Fox” David Pearson, and Indy car regular Gary Bettenhausen.
One year after Marty’s record, Dave Dudley released his own racing record, “Fireball Rolled A 7”. Loosely based on Glen “Fireball” Roberts, the song just missed Billboard‘s top 20 in late Spring, 1975. In Cashbox, it fared a little better, peaking at 17.
As noted, the song is loosely based on the career of Fireball Roberts. Roberts was one of NASCAR’s early stars, winning 33 races
between 1950 and 1964. Sadly, Glen’s career came to a tragic end in July, ’64, succumbing to burns suffered just over a month earlier in a crash at the World 600 in Charlotte. The race, held on May 24th, began what is considered by many to be the most tragic week in motorsports history, as the following weekend at Indianapolis, drivers Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs were fatally injured.
Incidentally, 7 was a number Roberts rarely, if ever, used. He drove several numbers, but is most famous using 22. Also, in case you are wondering, the nickname Fireball didn’t come from racing. Rather, it came from his days as a pitcher in American Legion baseball and his fast ball. And as the late Paul Harvey would’ve said, you know the rest of the story.
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, and focuses on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.