1961 Daytona 500 Champion Marvin Panch Passes Away

Marvin Panch, 89, passed away on Thursday per the Daytona Beach News Journal.

Panch, a 17-time race winner in what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, was known in NASCAR lore for two different Daytona 500 results.

In 1961, the Wisconsinite (Who grew up in Oakland, California) took a 1960 Pontiac, the same Pontiac that Hall of Famer Fireball Roberts had won races with the year before, and won the Daytona 500 too. Roberts had dominated the day, starting on the pole and leading for 170 laps before the engine failed with just 13 laps to go. It was yet another heartbreaker for Daytona Beach native Roberts, who had suffered DNFs in his home race after leading for three consecutive years at that point. Even though Pontiac had swept the top three finishers in the Daytona 500 and led 190 of 200 laps, they were not happy as Joe Weatherly and Paul Goldsmith had finished second and third respectively in brand new 1961 models. Roberts would finally break through and win the next year’s iteration of the “Great American Race.”

Before the 1963 Daytona 500, Panch was slated to drive for the legendary Wood Brothers before being caught up in a terrible sports car crash two weeks before the event at the very same track. Among those who helped Panch out of his burning car was crew man for the day and journeyman Cup driver Tiny Lund. Panch recommended on his hospital bed that they put the six foot five and 250 plus pound Lund in the legendary 21 in the sport’s biggest race. The Wood Brothers agreed and Lund ended up winning the race in a story that seems more like a tall tale. Just to make the story even more unbelievable, Panch came back in mid season to the Wood Brothers and finished top 10 in all 12 of his starts, including a victory at North Wilkesboro. Panch’s average finish for the season was an incredible 3.8.

Among Panch’s other accomplishments include winning both Atlanta Motor Speedway races in 1965 for the Wood Brothers. He also won the third biggest race in the Cup series, the World 600 at Charlotte, in 1966 in his final career victory for Petty Enterprises. Finally, in 1957, driving for Peter DePaulo, Herb Thomas, and himself, Panch won six races and finished the season second in the point standings to Buck Baker.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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