1961 Daytona 500 champion Marvin Panch dies at 89

NASCAR legend Marvin "Pancho" Panch has passed away at the age of 89.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Panch was found unresponsive in his car Thursday morning and pronounced dead of natural causes not long after.

Panch started 216 NASCAR Sprint Cup races between 1951 and 1966, winning 17 times and ending 1957 as the championship runner-up.

The defining moment of his career came in 1961 when the Oakland, California native won the biggest stock car race of them all; the Daytona 500. He took the lead with just 13 laps to go when then-race leader Fireball Roberts dropped out of the race with an engine failure, giving up a massive two-lap lead. 

He won the race in a black and gold 1960 Pontiac, built by the legendary Smokey Yunick. 

His final win came in another prestigious race; the 1966 World 600 at Charlotte. Driving for Petty Enterprises, Panch's final triumph came in a bit of an unconventional way. His teammate Richard Petty fell out of the race with engine issues halfway through what is still the longest race in all of NASCAR. With just under 50 laps to go, Panch was forced to get out of the Plymouth due to the seat rubbing against an old racing injury. His relief driver was none other than Richard Petty, who took the car to Victory Lane.

"For more than 60 years, Marvin Panch was a familiar and friendly face around NASCAR and Daytona Beach," NASCAR said in a statement. "He was one of the true pioneers of the sport, winning races across several NASCAR divisions, including the 1961 Daytona 500. As one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers, he represented the sport with class both on and off the track. Marvin will be missed dearly, especially as we approach Speedweeks at Daytona international Speedway, where he was a fixture."

Panch was named one of 'NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers' in 1998. 

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Marvin Panch
Article type Obituary