Legendary NASCAR driver Marvin Panch dies at 89

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Marvin Panch never ran a full season in NASCAR and a 15-year career resulted in only 216 starts during an era when 40 or 50 races per season was the norm.

But he made the most of his opportunities and won 17 times, scored 96 top-fives, and 126 top-10s.

Sadly, Panch passed away Thursday at the age of 89. Click here to read the story of Panch’s passing by Godwin Kelly of the Daytona Beach News Journal.

NASCAR picked Panch up in California during their Western swing in 1951 and he swept the top 10 in his first two starts. Panch finished sixth at Oakland Stadium and came within one position of winning his second start at Marchbanks Speedway in Hanford, California.

Measuring 1.4 miles in length that was one of NASCAR’s biggest stages at the time, and Panch knew he had the ability to head East and compete with the superstars.

The Wood Brothers and Petty Enterprises agreed and more than half of his wins came with those two organizations.

Panch was named by NASCAR as one of their 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998 as part of the series’ 50th-anniversay celebration.

While Panch did not put up the lofty numbers of many of his current competitors, he won on some of NASCAR’s biggest stages. Perhaps his most notable victory came in 1961 in the third annual Daytona 500, driving Smokey Yunick’s year-old Number 20 Pontiac.

Panch inherited the lead that afternoon from Fireball Roberts when Roberts’ newer model Pontiac blew an engine 13 laps from the end of the race.

Panch’s last victory was no less memorable. He won the 1966 World 600 for Petty Enterprises.

Later that same season, Panch ended his career the way he started it with back-to-back top-10s in Darlington Raceway’s Southern 500 and Charlotte’s National 500.

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