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March 31 in NASCAR: Fireball Roberts wins after switching teams

Fireball Roberts

BRISTOL, TN - 1963: Fireball Roberts poses with his Holman-Moody Ford at Bristol International Speedway. Roberts won the Southeastern 500 at Bristol during the NASCAR Cup season. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group

It’s one thing to switch teams at the end of the season and even during the season but in March? Just barely a few races into the season?

Fireball Roberts began the 1963 Grand National season with Banjo Matthews, running five races with Matthews before switching to Holman-Moody Racing before the Southeastern 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 31, 1963.

With his new team, Roberts went out and won the 500-lap race, finishing ahead of Fred Lorenzen, the only other driver to run every lap. Junior Johnson was third, finishing three laps behind the leaders. Richard Petty was fourth, five laps behind Roberts. Only 12 of the 35 cars that started were running at the end.

Roberts went on to win three more times for Holman-Moody that season. He ran nine races with the team in 1964 before dying from injuries he suffered in the 1964 World 600.

Also on this date:

1957: Buck Baker won at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in Asheville, North Carolina. He led the final 96 laps in the 200-lap race and was the only driver to complete the full distance. Runner-up Speedy Thompson finished a lap behind.

1996: Jeff Gordon won the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway for the second consecutive year. He would go on to win the track’s spring race four consecutive seasons.