Chargin’ Charlie Glotzbach, who earned that nickname for his qualifying prowess during NASCAR’s speedway expansion and aerodynamic wars died on Friday.
He was 82.
Glotzbach won four NASCAR Grand National Series races driving for numerous Hall of Fame team owners — including Junior Johnson and Cotton Owens. He finished second in the Daytona 500 in 1969 and 1972 for the Owens Racing team.
He also claimed 12 poles, a majority them coming on tracks over 1.3-miles when building them was all the rage.
“That’s how he got his name. He stood on the gas,” the legendary A.J. Foyt once said of Glotzbach.
Glotzbach broke into NASCAR as a 22-year-old in 1960 but didn’t stick and returned to his USAC and ARCA roots near his Edwardsville, Indiana, home.
He returned to NASCAR in 1967 in a backup car for Bobby Isaac. It was a feast or famine tenure as the car broke in four of his nine appearances but produced top-1os in the others. He pushed cars to the technical limit.
Owens hired Glotzbach to drive his No. 6 Dodge after David Pearson left for Holman-Moody. Glotzbach scored his first win with Owens that fall at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but pole positions at Daytona, Darlington and Charlotte netted him his nickname.
Glotzbach’s 1969 season was among his most eventful. He lost the Daytona 500 by a car-length, passed on the final lap by LeeRoy Yarbrough. He’d set a world qualifying record for the debut event at Talladega Superspeedway on Sept. 10 at 199.466 mph on
“It was the biggest thrill of my career. It almost takes your breath away,” Glotzbach told the press after exiting his Ray Nichels-owned Dodge. A day later, he posted an unofficial lap of 199.827 mph in practice, but a group of drivers boycotted after the tires failed to hold up under the high-speed conditions and Glotzbach was among those who withdrew.
He returned for the 1970 season, but only after recovering from two gunshot wounds suffered the previous November after a disagreement with a former employee. He won twice and earned four poles as the manufacturers race reached a new zenith in the dawn of the superspeeedway era.
Glotzbach’s final Cup Series victory in 1971 set a record that still stands. Glotzbach exited his No. 3 Chevrolet on a searing July day at Bristol Motor Speedway on the 351st lap, and relief driver Friday Hassler handled it the rest of way in a rare caution-free event. The 101.074 mph average speed is still a 500-lap benchmark for the .533-mile Tennessee track.
Though the bulk of his driving career was complete by the mid-1970s, Glotzbach continued racing — even with gaps of several years in his Cup Series tenure. Most notably, he returned for a seven-race Cup stint with car owner Junie Donlavey, the last of those appearances coming at age 54. Two years later, he was among the 43 drivers who failed to qualify for the first Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.
Glotzbach won four ARCA Menards Series races after turning 50.
One of his last driving appearances came back at Bristol in 2010 in an exhibition race for racing legends, but ended in multiple injuries after a crash that also seriously hurt Larry Pearson. He later made a full recovery.
Glotzbach never competed in more than half the scheduled races in a given season, but still managed to earn a respectable 50 top-10s in 124, surprising given his reputation as a gasser that pushed his cars to the limits.
“I’m proud to have run in NASCAR,” Glotzbach told the (Jeffersonville, Ind.) News and Tribune in 2011. “I was proud just to do it, but I’m also proud of the races I won. Plus I had a good percentage of finishing in the top-5 or top-10 of the races I ran.”
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