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NASCAR Legend Marvin Panch Passes Away

NASCAR

Marvin Panch, who gained fame by winning the 1961 Daytona 500 while driving Smokey Yunick’s backup stock car, died Thursday. Panch was found unresponsive in his car Thursday morning and pronounced dead of natural causes a short while later.

Panch, 89, was born in Oakland, CA, but spent a good part of his life in Port Orange, FL with his wife Bettie. They raised two children, Richie and Marvette. Richie died in an airplane crash in 1985, while Bettie passed away in 2006.

He raced NASCAR in the 1950s and 1960’s and made 216 Sprint Cup Series starts and won 17 races, including that 500. Panch is also notable for having a near-death experience at Daytona International Speedway in 1963, when he flipped a sports car, which caught on fire, during a practice run over the track’s road course. Several people near the crash site, including NASCAR Grand American driver Tiny Lund, came to his rescue. Panch suffered excessive burns and was unable to start the 1963 Daytona 500 for Wood Brothers Racing. Lund later won that year’s Daytona 500 in Panch’s entry. Panch’s last NASCAR start was in 1966. He worked in the automobile and racing business until he retired about two decades ago.

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