Marty Robbins Saves Life of NASCAR’s Richard Childress

February 22, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  18 Comments

marty-robbins-NASCARThe 2013 NASCAR season officially starts this Sunday in Daytona, and one of the sport’s most well-known car owners, a former NASCAR driver named Richard Childress, may not be around today if it wasn’t for the heroics of none other than country music’s Marty Robbins.

Here’s the story:

Marty Robbins may be best known at the caramel-voiced singer and songwriter of classics like “El Paso” and a Hall of Famer who charted hits in four different decades, but he also had a pretty serious NASCAR career on the side. This was no lark for Marty. He was a Dodge man and competed in a total of 35 NASCAR races and logged 6 top ten finishes. “You know,” Robbins joked in 1975, “I could win any race I entered. But as soon as I did Cale Yarborough or Richard Petty or somebody would pick up a guitar and start singing. So I let them win out there.”

It was no laughing matter though on October 6, 1974 during the Charlotte 500 when Richard Childress and three other drivers wrecked along the front straightaway on the 2nd lap of the race. Marty Robbins turned his purple and lime green #42 Dodge onto the straightaway doing 160 mph and was shocked to find four cars completely blocking the race track with nowhere for Marty to go.

As a musician and performer, Marty Robbins had to earn the respect of the NASCAR world. In 1974, if you wanted to show your mustard to the other drivers, one of the things you could do is work on your own race car. “Sure, Marty works on his car,” Richard Childress once told reporters. “Just the other day I saw him walking around with a can of wax getting ready to shine her up.” But how Marty would handle himself, barreling down on the side panel of Childress’s wrecked car in the middle of the Charlotte Speedway straightaway would earn Marty Robbins all the respect he would ever need from his NASCAR driving peers.

“The only thing I knew was that there were people in those wrecked cars in front of me and I couldn’t hit one of them because they’d probably not walk away from it,” Marty explains. So what did he do? “I looked down the track and saw Marty coming right at me,” Richard Childress recalls. “I knew if he hit me in the driver’s side I’d either be mangled badly or killed. There was no way of me escaping injury and no way out of his path. Then I saw something I am still not sure I can believe. Marty turned the wheel of the car right and it veered into the concrete wall.”


Marty Robbins’ car after hitting the wall

With a split second to make a decision, Marty Robbins decided to risk his own life by plowing 160 mph into a concrete wall instead of plowing into the pile of cars. The crowd fell into a hush for a full minute until finally Marty Robbins could be seen emerging from the mangled #42 Dodge. The crowd let out a roar as Marty boarded a stretcher from an ambulance and was taken to the infield care center. He was later transferred to the Charlotte Memorial Hospital where he received 32 stitches to close a gash between his eyes (see picture above). He also suffered two broken ribs and a broken tailbone.

After the race, a NASCAR official was quoted saying, “What he (Marty) did out there today saved at least one life and probably kept some other drivers from being maimed. He could have killed himself moving into that wall that way. But in the split second that counted he chose to possibly give his life over hurting somebody else. I don’t think you can be much more of a man than that.”

Richard Childress was quoted after the race saying, “There is no doubt in my mind I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now if Marty Robbins hadn’t risked his life to save me.”

Marty Robbins passed away in 1982, and the following year NASCAR named their annual race at the Nashville Speedway the “Marty Robbins 420.” Darrell Waltrip, the man who will call Sunday’s Daytona 500, was the winner.



Words and quotes from “Country Song Roundup Magazine” march 1975, and pictures from cottonowens.com.

18 Comments to “Marty Robbins Saves Life of NASCAR’s Richard Childress”

  • I had never heard that story. Thanks for posting it.


  • Wow thanks for the post I’d never heard that before. That just raises even higher the regard I have for Marty as a performer and a man.


  • Wow, what a beautiful story


  • Thank you for posting that. Marty Robbins was a good guy.


  • Great story. I met Marty a couple of times & he was really a good guy. Last time I saw him I was standing backstage & he would make silly faces at us with that little guitar. We talked to him for a couple of hours as the band was tearing down the sound equipment.

    Wish more were around like him, he was the real deal.


  • I don’t even like NASCAR but this story was amazing. I’d like to see one of today’s pop country douches risk their life for someone else.


  • Brought a tear to my eye. What a great story. Wish country stars of today still had that much character.


  • I’m young, 22 and I LOVE MARTY ROBBINS. Probably my all time favorite artist! I still remember the day i first held El Paso on a late night radio station that played Country classics one night a week. Changed my life! I grew up on just country music thanks to my parents, I never knew what rap was until middle school dances…it was disgusting-and still is! I was so surprised and happy to see this article! I know some of Marty’s music crossed over a bit but he’s still an amazing person! I just wanted to let you know that there are young people who know about the evil pop country BS and hate it. I can’t stand “country” radio anymore, makes me sick! Keep up the good work Trig!


  • Thanks for this cool story!


  • I didn’t know this story, but I have always admired Marty Robbins for pursuing racing as his avocation.

    He was a great musician.

    Running one of those cars back then (and even now) at Charlotte or Talladega requires a staggering amount of courage.


  • And, if I’m not mistaken, I remember reading somewhere or hearing a Marty interview (before ’82 of course) that upon exiting his race car after the wreck he started reciting the lyrics of El Paso, to make sure he was ok. Of course, with the Marty smile. I was fortunate enough to have my pic taken with him twice and got a couple autographs.


  • […] by SigShooter [link] [comment] NASCAR Reddit: News from the […]


  • Damn! That’s a hero!


  • I was blessed to be able to call that amazing man my friend for the last ten years of his life and am well aware of this race. I saw him shortly after the accident and he had a big hole in his nose and a huge gash on his forehead and between his eyes, as well as a couple of broken ribs and a broken tailbone. He came very close to losing his right eye. To watch him on stage, no one would have any idea of the tremendous pain that he was in. He never gave less than his all on stage or on the race track.To say that Marty was an amazing man is an understatement. I’ve never known anyone else quite like him and I was not surprised at all that he would risk his own life to save someone else. That’s just the way he was, and I have never seem anyone who cared so deeply for his fans, as he did. Marty was one of a kind and I am so happy to see the younger folks discovering that amazing man and appreciating him for the wonderful entertainer and driver that he was.


    • I was priveleged to call Marty my friend.Met him in Phillipines at Clark Field in1957
      Opened a show for him in1963 at State Theater in Hartford, CT.He always called me “Hoss”. Was one of the finest persons I have ever known RIP old friend. He used to kid me about getting out of Military and trying my hand in Nashville, I ribbed him about driving a race car with all his talent as a singer.


  • Wow I’m 65 and a Marty Robbins fan never knew that. I remember him racing and his giant smile. I have read several stories about him but not this one. Thank for posting it


  • As a big Marty Robbins and Nascar fan, I had never heard this story before! Thank you for sharing!!!


  • My respect for this man was already high but now, Wow, how selfless could one person be. Few people would of done the same. I grew up listening to his music, and now here I am in my fifties going back and recording his music and remembering childhood memories. Thank you Mr. MarrtyRobbins.


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